AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which controls the flow of about 90% of the power in Texas, is asking residents to conserve power through Friday as temperatures in the state surge.

The council says the power grid will likely be tighter due to a high number of forced generation outages.

Monday afternoon data from ERCOT indicates forecasted demand may exceed capacity during peak heat hours in the afternoon, and it’s not expected to change much during the week with temperatures close to 100 degrees.

“We will be conducting a thorough analysis with generation owners to determine why so many units are out of service,” Woody Rickerson, the ERCOT vice president of grid planning and operations, said. “This is unusual for this early in the summer season.”

ERCOT's energy outlook as of 4 p.m. June 14, 2021 (ERCOT Photo)
ERCOT’s energy outlook as of 4 p.m. June 14, 2021 (ERCOT Photo)

Generator owners told ERCOT 12,000 megawatts of generation are currently out because of repairs — most of which are unplanned and unexplained. About 8,000 megawatts of that is from thermal, and the rest is intermittent resources. The generator owners added they expected the number of outages to decrease as the week goes on. ERCOT noted one megawatt can power about 200 homes on a summer day.

On hot summer days, the summer Seasonal Assessment of Resource Adequacy estimates a typical range of outages from thermal generation is about 3,600 megawatts.

“This is not consistent with fleet performance over the past few summers, and it is very concerning,” Warren Lasher, ERCOT’s senior director of system planning, told reporters Monday afternoon.

During a telephone briefing, Lasher said ERCOT should be able to release more information Tuesday about when power plants will come back online.

“Today’s peak load forecast may exceed 73,000 MW. The peak demand record for June is 69,123 MW set on June 27, 2018 between 4 and 5 p.m.,” ERCOT said.

Joshua Rhodes, a research associate with the University of Texas at Austin and Webber Energy Group, shared his reaction to ERCOT issuing this call to conserve energy — the second time it’s happened since February’s deadly winter storms.

“To see it happening while temperatures are a little bit lower than they normally are is a bit concerning, but given how many power plants are offline, it makes sense,” Rhodes said, “but I mean it’s something we’ve got to figure out. If anything we know, the summer’s only going to get hotter.”

Steps to conserve energy

ERCOT is asking people to do the following to help reduce demand:

  • Set thermostats to 78° or higher
  • Turn off lights and pool pumps
  • Avoid using large appliances (washers, dryers, ovens)
  • “If you don’t need something – we are asking you to turn it off and unplug it if possible,” ERCOT said.

February freeze fiasco

ERCOT has been under national scrutiny since the February winter storm outages that left millions in the dark and in the cold for days. ERCOT’s management — or mismanagement — of the crisis came to be near-universally acknowledged as a failure. With this judgment, came increasing attention on its leadership.

The fallout from the mass outages catalyzed a series of big changes for the council: including director resignations, a state investigation, and the termination of President/CEO Bill Magness.

In May, the council said its seasonal report for the summer months showed a low risk for emergency conditions from June through September, with the agency saying it expects peak summer energy demand of 77,144 megawatts.

Rickerson added at the time that the council can’t control weather or forced generation outages, but said ERCOT is “prepared to deploy the tools that are available to us to maintain a reliable electric system.”