Record power use less likely today, conservation urged *update 2*



Texas’ main electric power grid manager started the day off Monday waving red warning flags over another day of possible record power demand, but that fear eased slowly over the course of the day.

Some surprise rain showers in North Texas may have helped keep power demand in check, with peak demand now expected to come in well below the current record of 68,294 megawatts, set on Aug. 3.

But the Electric Reliability Council of Texas is still urging conservation between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Tuesday as well.

A key factor in whether the state enters its four-step power emergency process is how many power plants are offline for unplanned maintenance. On days when that’s been been close to 5,000 megawatts the Level 1 emergencies are most likely.

ERCOT spokeswoman Theresa Gage said today (Monday) it looks like 4,300 MW are offline for unplanned maintenance.

Saturday and Sunday were record-breaking days for weekend energy consumption, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, with 65,100 megawatts used on Saturday and 65,159 megawatts on Sunday.

The intense, pavement-buckling heat matched our previous all-time record. There may be relief in sight by the end of the week, but Monday and Tuesday are going to be brutal.

On Saturday ERCOT came very close to declaring a Level 1 emergency — something it’s done repeatedly this summer — where it starts to draw power from neighboring grids.

Fewer power plants tend to be availabe during weekends as they try to come offline to handle maintenance problems that arise during the week.

Three of the four mothballed power plants that ERCOT has brought back online for the summer crisis were in service this weekend, with Unit 2 of NRG Energy’s S.R. Bertron power plant in Deer Park coming online Saturday. That 146 megawatt unit may have been just enough to avoid the Level 1 emergency.

A megawatt is enough to power about 200 Texas homes during the summer months, when air conditioning use is at its peak, according to ERCOT.

You’ve been seeing them all summer, but please take a look at the conservation tips again:

  • Turn off all unnecessary lights, appliances, and electronic equipment.
  • When at home, close blinds and drapes that get direct sun, set air conditioning thermostats to 78 degrees or higher, and use fans in occupied rooms to make it feel cooler.
  • When away from home, set air conditioning thermostats to 85 degrees and turn all fans off before you leave. Block the sun by closing blinds or drapes on windows that will get direct sun.
  • Do not use your dishwasher, laundry equipment, hair dryers, coffee makers, or other home appliances during the peak hours of 3 PM to 7 PM.
  • Avoid opening refrigerators or freezers more than necessary.
  • Use microwaves for cooking instead of an electric range or oven.
  • Set your pool pump to run in the early morning or evening instead of the afternoon.

You can track the ever-changing current demand and expected peak at the ERCOT web site throughout the day, or you can look at this web site where ERCOT posts notices of operations problems, (if you can decipher the messages).

If you really want to scare yourself look at this ERCOT site that shows wholesale power prices every 15 minutes. Usually the price per megawatt-hour is under $40 or so, but it can get as high as $3,001 per MWH during the peak demand hours when the grid is closest to the breaking point. If you were to buy power for your home under those conditions you’d be paying $3 per kilowatt-hour.

Categories: Electricity, Weather
Tom Fowler

28 Responses

  1. Mike H. says:

    I think some people need to see “The Smartest Guys in the Room”. Many overtones to the Western US power issues of 2000 are in Texas right now.

  2. Ed C says:

    The only thing laughable is ess trying to tell me how big power and ercot is doing such a fine job.

  3. Jason says:

    Has anyone complaining about having to conserver power and mandatory water rationing been outside at all this summer or watched any news? Last year we had 4 days over 100 degrees all year…this year we’ve had over 30…tied the all time ever high temperature…and basically no rain. Think maybe the issues with power and water might have something to do with the weather?

  4. payback says:

    Where’s Enron when you need’em? What comes around goes around!


  5. Darryl says:

    Thank you, David. I understand what they are “supposed” to do, and that blackouts are unlikely today. Do you understand a little problem called the Tragedy of the Commons?

    Again, I’m conserving in an aggressive fashion, as I noted earlier in my inital post. I’m simply pointing out the kind of thinking that might cause a problem when there shouldn’t be one…hoarding isn’t just an A&E reality show…

  6. Doug Bostrom says:

    “I’m tired of being told to conserve this and conserve that! ”

    Are infants really allowed to register and post here? I thought there was some rule about needing to be 13 or older.

  7. David says:

    … if I comply, and set my A/C at, say, 82F – if there is a brown/blackout I will watch my temps inside climb to truly dangerous levels …

    If rolling blackouts became necessary (they won’t today), they are only supposed to last for 15 minutes at any location.

  8. ess says:

    “Not!! I’m tired of being told to conserve this and conserve that! Enough is enough!!”

    awww. you poor thing! it is surely unfortunate to think of how all of these annoying conservation warnings have inconvenienced your life (sarcasm, in case you couldn’t tell. and based on your comments, i seriously doubt you could).

    look, folks. these conveniences we all take for granted (electricity, water) are finite. you whine about these warnings, but what would you do if you had to find out the hard way where these limits are?

    as bad as rolling blackouts are, none of us would want the other option.

    ERCOT might deserve some backlash for inadequate planning on their part, but give em a break for the warnings. the warnings are WHAT YOU SHOULD HOPE THEY WOULD DO IN THIS SITUATION.

  9. tacolover says:

    Can’t water your grass or flower beds. Not supposed to water your house foundation (aint nobody going to stop me from that) Ration electricity now, had to last winter. I had rolling blackouts. They need to fix these problems, I have enough problems without worrying about conserving electricity that am paying out the nose for…

  10. Darryl says:

    I couldn’t care less about ERCOT’s goings on, but I’m having fun trying to see how low I can get my electric bill in the hottest month ever.

    For the record, I don’t have small children or elderly people in my house. If I did, I’d feel differently about my little experiment.

    There’s a little bit of Prisoner’s Dilemma in the voluntary conservation plea – if I comply, and set my A/C at, say, 82F – if there is a brown/blackout I will watch my temps inside climb to truly dangerous levels (for some). If, however, I run my A/C at 68F, and there’s a blackout, I’ll still be comfortable when the power returns. I have an incentive to consume if I fear noncompliance by most others.

  11. zwilliams says:

    Not!! I’m tired of being told to conserve this and conserve that! Enough is enough!!

  12. ess says:

    “They have plenty of backup power plants. They don’t want to crank them up because they run on coal that takes a day or two to fire up.”


    I like how some folks think that just because their genius minds have thought of it, that is how it is.


  13. ess says:

    ERCOT has shot itself in the foot manipulating power prices to protect the smaller REPs and consumers. This goes for both the artificial caps ($3001) as well as the ridiculously low off-peak prices (<$40/MWHR) we have seen over the last few years.

    there have been no "signals" to generators/investors that new generation is needed. and as much as you might think that $3001 is a good-enough signal, keep in mind that no one would ever invest in new generation that would be profitable only at record peak times when capacity is tight.

  14. EdC says:

    They have plenty of backup power plants. They don’t want to crank them up because they run on coal that takes a day or two to fire up. If big power would convert them to gas then they could fire them up and shut them down in no time at all instead of days.

    The whole thing boils down to money. They don’t want to spend money, just make it. They would rather tell us to conserve when they can’t deliver instead of doing what is right for their customers.

    Deregulation has everything to do with it. Yes, that is a Houston problem, not a Texas problem, but how many people live here versus the rest of the State?

    • Tom Fowler says:

      ERCOT doesn’t have customers or power plants: they just manage the high voltage grid (which even that they don’t “own”). It’s up to the owners of the power plants to decide if they will put their power plants online. Yes, ERCOT can demand certain units be up for reliability issues, and has contracted to bring some out of mothballs this year, but it’s largely an open market.

  15. David says:

    but it can get as high as $3,001 per MWH during the peak demand hours …

    This sounds like an artificial cap. If so, then that’s part of the problem. Let it get as high as the market decides it should be. That would be some good incentive to build some power plants.

  16. Bill in Houston says:

    Conserve? Hell. I own shares of Gexa’s parent company, NextERA. CONSUME :)

  17. Augustus Call says:

    Who wanted deregulation ? That was Ken Lay who padded the pockets of our politicians . The problem is Kenny Boy set the trend of the money not being in operation and maintenence , it’s in the trading . Of course that’s only if your in Cali and controlling the market . All these other companies fell in line with Kenny Boy because after all if you ain’t cheatin you ain’t trying .

    Who loses , the consumers and anyone in the electrical utility businessthat had a 401K . Who won … Phil Freakin Gramm and Tom Delay and the likes .

  18. Michael says:

    Really want to conserve? Change the school year so it begins September 15th; require homes over 2,000 square feet to set their thermostats at 80 from 3 – 7 pm; quit buiding so many malls!ERCOT wants us to conserve so no one goes without power – butI suspect it is the “little guys” doing all the conserving while the folks with mega-homes just go about their energy-draining lives.

  19. Josh says:

    ERCOT and TUPC exist. What deregulation? How about really deregulating? You think Walmart has a problem when you buy a lot of stuff? Why doesn’t a government body have to tell them they better provide more? With real deregulation, the power companies would find a way to sell you more power. What if they colluded? Great. Look at OPEC. Every time they get together and decide to cut production, they produce more than before.

  20. ess says:

    no one single entity is reaping in huge profits because of conservation efforts. they only make money when you rack UP the kwhs.

    i will agree that, ultimately, it should be SERVICE FIRST instead of SHAREHOLDERS FIRST. but you see, the democracy of this free, deregulated market has spoken– and it apparently finds investing in new generation at this time to be too risky. tough sh!t, consumers.

    ERCOT only wants you to conserve to ensure that the whole grid doesn’t go down. they make no money either way with how you decide to comply.

  21. Bert says:

    I hope businesses do the same thing. And how about some businesses closing an hour earlier?

  22. Jason says:

    So the power companies should build more plants to cover years where we have record breaking weather conditions and leave them sit idle all the other years? Guess who pays for that through increased power bills? And deregulation really doesn’t have anything to do with this….this is a statewide issue, not a Houston issue.

  23. Dave says:

    Let him go. He’s on a roll.

  24. Jennifer says:

    We’re conserving but staying comfortable.

  25. EdC says:


    Big power makes a huge profit by me conserving power. They don’t invest in infrastructure so that means more money for them. It makes perfect sense. Get rid of this stupid deregulation nonsense and get back to the way it used to be and MAKE big power do what they can’t be trusted to do.

    Let me guess. Your under 40 or a speculator?

  26. ess says:

    “I am not going to turn my AC up so big power can make huge profits because they don’t invest money to make the grid work right.”

    this statement makes absolutely no sense.

  27. EdC says:

    I am sick and fed up with you people telling me to conserve power. I’ve been listening to this nonsense since the famous Jimmy Carter speech.

    My God, this is Texas for God sakes. FIX THE PROBLEM! And don’t give me that nonsense it can’t be done cheaply.

    I am not going to turn my AC up so big power can make huge profits because they don’t invest money to make the grid work right.