Here we go again: ERCOT issues call for conservation as temperatures rise.

Updated: Jun. 14, 2021 at 1:22 PM CDT
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(KWTX) – The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, which oversees most of the state’s electric grid, is calling for power conservation at least through Friday because of “tight grid conditions” resulting from forced generation outages and the potential for record demand for power this month.

“We are deeply concerned with the issues of all the plants that are offline at this time,” said Warren Lasher, Senior Director of System Planning for ERCOT. “It’s not clear why we are seeing so many unplanned outages at this time.”

Generation facilities capable of producing about 11,000 MW of power are offline for repairs, ERCOT said.

During a call with the press Monday, ERCOT officials promised a thorough investigation.

“We will be conducting a thorough analysis with generation owners to determine why so many units are out of service,” said ERCOT Vice President of Grid Planning and Operations Woody Rickerson.

“This is unusual for this early in the summer season.”

Officials said they started to see unexpected, forced outages over the weekend, then they saw more plants go down Sunday and Monday for “unexpected maintenance issues.”

The peak load forecast Monday may exceed 73,000 MW.

The peak demand record for June was set between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. on June 27,2018.

“It sounds like this is something that was unexpected, whether it was caused by the strain the winter storm had on these power plants, we don’t know, hopefully we’ll know later,” said Philip White, energy researcher at the University of Texas - Austin.

White says he was surprised to see an ERCOT alert this early into Texas’ “hot” season.

”Usually, we would see one or two of these a summer, and usually on our hottest days,” said White. “If it was 102, 103, 104...I’d be pretty worried.”

“If these outages are sustained for a few more weeks and get into late June or early July, that will definitely become a problem,” said White.

ERCOT is asking residents to set thermostats to 78 degrees or higher, to turn off lights and pool pumps and to avoid using large appliances.

ERCOT urged Texans on April 13 to conserve energy, leaving some worried the state would see a repeat of the widespread power outages that occurred during the historic winter storm in February.

On the evening on April 13— as ERCOT issued its conservation notice — about half of the state’s thermal power plants were offline because of maintenance.

ERCOT generally expects plants to shut down for maintenance in the spring ahead of the busy summer season, but it did not expect so many plants to be down, White told KWTX at the time.

Many were shuttered as they dug out from February’s freeze.

“Just like the winter weather took our households to their limits with cracked pipes and anything else that it created, that was also happening to power plants,” White said.

He said that warm spells in the future, while plants are still recovering from the winter storm, could create the need for additional conservation measures or even force additional outages.

ERCOT officials said Monday they were being conservative with the alert and they do not believe they will have to declare an emergency.

They added, during the summer, in general, scarcity conditions were easier to forecast so there would typically be more time for public notification than what happened in February.

A statewide emergency alert system was also in the works, they said.

Late Monday, hours after the alert went out, White said the numbers were promising.

“In years before the winter storm, no one really would see this (the alerts), but now maybe this means people are actually conserving,” he said.

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