ERCOT asks Texans to conserve electricity on Monday

Texans are being urged to turn up the thermostat to conserve energy Monday or risk rolling blackouts.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas is asking people to conserve electricity between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

ERCOT said the extreme heat is driving record power demand across the state, and it may not have enough supply.

ERCOT says if users don't conserve, there could be rolling blackouts soon.

An ERCOT spokesperson said the state isn’t in an emergency situation at this time. But they officially issued what called a "watch," basically asking folks to conserve power during peak hours Monday to avoid any possible blackouts.

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During those peak hours, Texans are asked to turn up the thermostat to 78 if possible and postpone running pool pumps and major appliances like laundry machines and dishwashers.

The projected shortage in energy reserves is due to triple-digit temperatures and low wind generation.

While solar power is generally reaching near full capacity, wind is significantly lower, coming in less than 10% of its capacity. 

Dr. Joshua Rhodes is a research associate with the Webber Energy Group at UT Austin.

Rhodes says conditions across Texas are reducing the cushion of available reserves with people cranking up the AC.

"So while I think the chances of blackouts are relatively small, they're not zero," he said.

If ERCOT does order utility companies to reduce power usage, the order will go through distributors like Oncor in North Texas and CenterPoint Energy in Houston.

While demand will be high all week, ERCOT expects more production from renewable sources on Tuesday.

Scott Burns is Vice President of Innovation and Customer Experience at Reliant Energy. 

"So one of the biggest things we recommend is controlling your thermostat," he said.

Burns says using ceiling fans can cool a room by four degrees. He also recommends not using appliances like dishwasher and dryers during the day.

"Because not only are they big users of electricity, they actually create a lot of heat through your air conditioner. Then, it has to get out of your house."

Rolling blackouts are the last resort for ERCOT, which must go through two other emergency phases before getting to that point. 

The first energy emergency level is triggered when operating reserves drop below 2,300 megawatts and are not expected to recover within 30 minutes.

A level two energy emergency is triggered when operating reserves drop below 1,750 megawatts and aren't expected to recover within 30 minutes.

In that event, ERCOT can shut off power to large industrial customers that already agreed to having their power interrupted in case of an emergency. Those industrial users are compensated for their cuts. Places like hospitals and police stations are exempt.

"We want to make sure that they have the connectivity, they have the power because they can respond to other types of emergencies, be the heat-related or not," Rhodes said.

At a level three emergency, ERCOT begins an involuntary load shed designed to keep the grid from collapsing, telling utility companies to reduce demand by turning off people's power.

"They're the ones that are really calling the shots," Burns said.

The tight energy conditions may continue throughout the week with the forecast calling for temperatures in the triple digits all week.

Speaking at a Monday event, Gov. Greg Abbott said he is confident the power grid will hold. He says wind is starting to pick back up and will increase in the coming days. That should help with power production.

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