Cold weather prompts call for power conservation in Texas

HOUSTON — With Texans facing one of the coldest nights of the winter, the state grid operator is asking electric consumers to reduce power use overnight, anticipating that furnaces will boost demand  for electricity while some generating capacity is unavailable.

“We are expecting cold weather to continue through tomorrow morning’s high demand period, and some generation capacity has become unavailable due to limitations to natural gas supplies,” said Dan Woodfin, director of system operations for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas in a written statement.

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Weather forecasts say overnight temperatures will range from around 10 degrees in the Panhandle to just above freezing along the Gulf coast. A nationwide freeze has pushed up demand for natural gas to provide heating.

The council asked consumers to reduce power use from 5 p.m. Thursday until noon Friday, and offered these tips:

  • Set thermostats as low as is comfortable, preferably no higher than 68 degrees.
  • Unplug non-essential lights and appliances.
  • Avoid running large appliances such as washers, dryers and electric ovens during peak energy demand hours,  4-8 p.m. and 6-9 a.m.
  • Close shades at night to reduce the amount of heat lost through windows.

The council asked large power uses to consider reducing non-essential production, and suggested that other businesses minimize use of lighting and electric equipment as much as possible.

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The grid operator  predicts that demand could exceed the winter record of  57,277 megawatts. One megawatt powers about 200 typical Texas residences during peak demand.

“This is a precautionary measure to help ensure we can maintain overall reliability through this high-demand period,” said Woodfin.

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10 ways to slim your power bill this winter