Texas electric supply will be ‘very tight,’ grid operator says

Balancing supply and demand for electricity in Texas will be a delicate balancing act again this summer.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the power grid for 85 percent of the state, said Friday that it expects sufficient electricity to be available through the spring but predicts “very tight” conditions over the summer.

Power demands are highest in the summer, when home and business use soars because of air conditioning.

“Current estimates indicate that we likely will see very tight conditions on the hottest days,” Kent Saathoff, vice president of grid operations and system planning for the agency, said in a statement.

He said there was a “significant chance” that the agency would have to issue emergency alerts and ask consumers to reduce energy use on some days this summer.

Agency meteorologist Chris Coleman said the coming summer is predicted to be hotter and drier than normal, although less so than the prolonged heat waves of 2011.

The all-time peak use was recorded on Aug. 3, 2011, when consumer demand hit 68,302 megawatts.

One megawatt can serve about 200 homes during peak demand periods.

The preliminary summer assessment issued Friday anticipated a peak demand of 67,998 megawatts, based on a weather outlook similar to that of 2010 and a slower-growth economic outlook.

The agency said it anticipates having 73,708 megawatts of generation capacity available before accounting for power plant outages; that typically adds up to 2,600 megawatts on any given day.

Wind power contributes 8.7 percent of capacity.

More generation should be available this year than in 2012, but demand is expected to be higher as well, Saathoff said.

A pilot program began in 2012 encourages consumers to participate in an emergency response service by reducing electric use within 30 minutes after receiving an alert from ERCOT. It has been extended through this summer and is now open to residential customers.