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Worried about blackouts this summer? Texas could set new electricity records

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A power plant exploded and lit up the New York City sky with a shade of blue, creating an eerie, confusing scene for many New Yorkers.

With the weather still feeling like winter, it’s hard think about another scorching Texas summer.

Yet the agency that controls about 90 percent of the state’s power grid is already warning that reserves will be low this year.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas is predicting record electric use as the temperatures rise during the summer months, which could lead to more energy alerts.

ERCOT’s reserve margin is predicted to be an historic low of 7.4 percent. At the same time, electric demand is continuing to increase.

An energy alert can trigger other steps by the reliability council, including load reduction from some industrial customers who have agreed to so under their energy contracts, importing electricity from neighboring regions and voluntary calls for conservation.

Total resource capacity for the upcoming summer is expected to be 78,154 megawatts. A megawatt can power about 200 homes during peak demand.

Between 2016 and March 2019, the reliability council set 16 monthly peak demand records and all-time system-wide peak demand records in 2016 and 2018.

Despite the record energy usage predicted this summer, the council is not forecasting rolling blackouts. It’s been eight years since the last blackouts occurred during the extreme cold in February 2011, the same week that the Super Bowl was played at AT&T Stadium.

“I think the good news is ERCOT has done a really commendable job of keeping the lights on,” said Jake Dyer, a policy analyst for the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power, which buys electricity for cities across the state.

At a February meeting with the Texas Public Utility Commission, Bill Magness, the council’s president and CEO, said the agency was “much more likely” to deal with “emergency-alert type conditions” this summer, according to the trade publication, RTO Insider.

It’s too early to say whether Texas will have one of the miserably hot summers that sends electricity usage soaring.

Summer heat is often tied to how wet or dry spring is across Texas.

But the long-range outlook for June, July and August from the Climate Prediction Center is showing a greater chance for above normal temperatures in Texas and near-normal rainfall.

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Bill Hanna is an award-winning reporter who has covered just about every beat at the Star-Telegram. He currently covers Arlington but also writes about a variety of subjects including weather, wildlife, traffic and health.


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