Feds predict Texas will get hot, Texans will run ACs

A federal agency is joining in a warning that state electricity managers have been giving for months and that most Texans know about anyway: It’s going to get hot this summer, and our air conditioners may test the limits of the power grid.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission reported this week that Texas faces “increased risk,” anticipating that high temperatures will create peak conditions this summer.

Texas’ expected electric power reserve margin will be 13.2 percent this summer, one of the tightest reserve margins in the United States and lower than the 13.75 percent target set by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

Grid operators like ERCOT set reserve margins representing the difference between capacity and projected maximum demand.

For several years, Texas’ growing population has prompted concern that power plant construction hasn’t kept up and that generation capacity may not be sufficient at peak times, especially during hot summer conditions.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the wholesale electric market, believes power suppliers will be able to meet summer demands without rolling power blackouts, but cautions that the current margin is still tight.

The federal agency reported that California’s South Orange County and San Diego are also struggling with tighter capacity margins since the San Onofre nuclear plant was shut down in January 2012, due to the accidental release of small amounts of radioactive steam.

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