Grid operator endorses $590M power project for Houston area
HOUSTON — The state’s electric grid operator endorsed $590 million in upgrades designed to improve electric reliability in the Houston area.
Officials with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas said that Houston is one of the most congested spots in the state’s grid, and the upgrades are necessary to ensure performance of the system in the region.
“We have evaluated this concern from a variety of perspectives, and, under every scenario, this project is needed to support reliability in the region by summer 2018,” said Jeff Billo, ERCOT transmission planning manager, in a statement.
Grid reliability: Texas blackouts rise, ranking No. 2 in nation
The state’s Public Utility Commission still must review and approve the project, which includes a new 130-mile transmission line along with upgrades to three substations and to an existing 11-mile transmission line, among other work.
Reliability Council officials say Houston is relying more on power from other parts of the state to support its growing electricity demand, as generating plants that serve the region retire faster than new ones come online. But the capacity to transmit power to the area from elsewhere is reaching its limit.
Already, ERCOT has struggled at times to conduct maintenance during periods of peak energy use in Houston due to those limitations.
Last year, four transmission providers submitted three proposals for review. On Tuesday, ERCOT’s board of directors endorsed a proposal submitted by CenterPoint Energy, Cross Texas Transmission and Garland Power & Light.
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14 ways to slim your power bill this summer
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Angle blinds up: TXU Energy says that angling horizontal blinds so sunlight streams up can reduce the heat coming in and provide free natural light. When closed and lowered, highly reflective blinds can reduce heat gain by around 45 percent.
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Insulate lights: Canned or recessed lights can be a big source of air leaks. Selecting “IC” (insulation contact) models or installing approved covers over non-IC models can stop that.
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Use a fan: You can raise your thermostat setting by up to 4 degrees and not feel a difference if you also run a ceiling fan. Fans only make you feel cooler, though, so turn them off when you’re not in the room.
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Lower humidity: It takes longer to cool a humid home. The ideal humidity level is less than 60 percent in the summer.
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Moderate the thermostat: Lowering your thermostat setting does not cool your home more quickly. Many factors affect how quickly an indoor space cools. Thermostat set points are not among them.
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Check your water heater: Water heaters are factory set at 140 degrees. Lowering that to 120 degrees provides comfortably hot water and less energy consumption.
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Use a programmable thermostat: Most Americans with programmable thermostats don’t program them. New Energy Star® ratings for programmable thermostats may consider ease of use and online access.
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Seal your windows: If you want to save money this summer, you should start by looking for the places where you are losing money. Gaps between windows and doors are some of the most likely spots for energy loss.
Michael Paulsen / Houston Chronicle
Get the right A/C unit: Air conditioners are designed for specific sizes, and you can waste energy by having one too big or too small. You should make sure your unit is right for your home.
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Switch your light bulbs: You can save money by switching out old incandescent light bulbs for compact fluorescent bulbs. The modern light bulbs, which do have a different glow, can save you money on your electric bill.
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Change your air filter: A dirty air filter can make your air conditioner be less efficient, and it can ultimately cost you money on your electric bill.
Fitz Villafuerte / Flickr
Turn off lights: Many people forget to turn off lights and fans after leaving a room. By turning them off, you can save yourself some money on that electric bill.
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Buy energy-efficient appliances: They may cost more at the store, but energy-efficient appliances can save you money on your electric bill.
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Unplug unused appliances: You can save money by unplugging phone chargers or other kitchen appliances when they aren't in use.