AUSTIN (KXAN) — Triple-digit temperatures are expected to continue this week in Central Texas, and demand on our power grid could break previous June records each day through Friday.
Right now, projected supply should meet demand without any tight grid conditions, meaning no conservation alerts or rolling blackouts.
But, local outages are still possible.
Over the weekend, several thousand Oncor customers reported outages in Round Rock and Pflugerville, according to the utility’s website.
When Keith Goode’s power went out on Sunday, he got nervous since summer is just beginning.
“It’s only going to get worse. So can the power grid sustain the growth that we’ve seen?” Goode said, explaining this outage lasted about an hour.
It didn’t cause too much of a problem for him Sunday, and his house stayed relatively cool because it’s well-insulated. But he said if it had happened during his work day, it would’ve been a different story.
“I work from home, I speak at conferences from home, I’m in webinars from home, so I need electricity,” Goode explained.
He considers himself energy conscious; he had solar panels installed in 2020.
“Very beneficial. I have not seen electricity bills since March of 2020,” he said.
Those panels stop working when the electricity goes out, though. He’d need to invest even more in power storage to keep the lights on when the utility or state grid faces an outage.
“We also need those things to become more affordable, because that [solar] grid is $27,000 that I have, if I want battery backups, that’s another $24,000. If I want natural gas backups, that’s $15,000.
Goode feels fortunate to have the panels at all and realizes a lot of Texans can’t afford the same system. He said the state should be doing more to make those options more affordable.
AARP sent a warning this week to Texans about expected high electric bills this summer due to costs still trickling down to customers from the 2021 winter storm, at a time when demand is high.
“There are 3 million Texas households that receive social security for being 65 or older. And I know a good chunk of them rely on that social security check for their complete income,” Tim Morstad with AARP Texas said Monday.
That fixed income is just around $1,300 a month. But, AARP says there are ways to avoid disconnection due to the inability to pay the bill.
“If you’re having trouble meeting your high utility bill this summer, know that utility bill assistance may be available where you live, the first call should be to your utility company to ask what assistance is available,” Morstad said.
“We also like people to know about average or levelized billing arrangements, which can help you offset these high usage months that we always see every summer with some of the lower usage months that we see in spring and fall and can kind of smooth out that that bill impact that people feel across the 12 months,” he explained.
“Having power, reliable power truly can be a matter of life and death. For some Texans, especially older Texans, heat can kill. And for those who can’t afford their electricity bill and face a disconnection, it really can be a life and death situation,” Morstad explained.
Goode says if lawmakers help more Texans afford energy-efficient technology, that could help relieve strain on the grid going forward.
“I’m about 60, to 70% energy independent with my solar panels, which means that I feed much more electricity into the grid than I actually take out of the grid,” he said.
We tried to understand the cause of the local outages in Round Rock over the weekend. We have not yet heard back from Oncor.
For those in need of relief from the heat, Family Eldercare’s Summer Fan Drive offers fans to older adults, persons with disabilities, and families throughout Central Texas.
“When your income is just under $1,000 a month, you definitely can’t afford a $300, $400 AC bill,” Virginia Larson with Family Eldercare said Monday.
“These fans are certainly making a difference in helping them circulate the air in their homes to cool them off. And they really make a difference. And they only cost pennies to run a day,” she explained.
“The people who are benefiting from the fan drive, 62% of them can’t even afford to buy their own food. If 45% have felt sick from the heat, and over half are living with a disability,” Larson continued.
To make a donation to the drive, and to find out more about it, go to the event’s website.
For advice on how to stay cool if you do experience a power outage, here are some tips.