State issues Power Watch through 7 p.m., record use expected

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the state’s main grid operator, and the Public Utility Commission are calling on consumers and businesses to reduce electricity use today during peak electricity demand hours from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Outages aren’t expected, said ERCOT Vice President of System Planning and Operations Kent Saathoff, “but due to the effect of some unplanned generation outages, we expect to have minimal reserves available, which could increase the possibility that we will declare an advisory or further steps in the Energy Emergency Alert procedures.”
ERCOT officials have also called on back-up power plants to come online to be ready for further problems. The Power Watch is the first of three stages the PUC goes through during summer demand spikes. In the next phase, a “red” Power Warning, customers would be asked to take the same measures but some business with pre-arranged agreements to cut their usage would be asked to do so. The final stage, Rolling Outages, is when ERCOT actually has large blocks of customers turned off for short periods of time in a controlled fashion to avoid a broader system-wide failure. This stage is extremely rare.
The peak electricity demand today could be close to 62,500 megawatts, but cloud cover or rain could change that projection within a short time period. The current record for peak demand is 62,339 MW which occurred Aug. 17, 2006.
One megawatt typically powers about 200 Texas homes during hot summer weather, according to ERCOT.
Businesses and consumers are encouraged to:
· Set air conditioning thermostats to 80 degrees or higher.
· Cool with fans.
· Close blinds and drapes on windows that get direct sun.
· Turn off all unnecessary lights, appliances, and electronic equipment.
· Avoid using big appliances between the hours of 3 to 7 p.m.