ERCOT ends call for energy conservation on April day in 70s, low 80s across North Texas

ERCOT officials asked for energy conservation Tuesday despite temperatures across the state being nowhere close to record numbers.

Once again, ERCOT had to explain why there were tight power conditions. But this time, there was no record heat or cold.

As North Texans enjoyed an afternoon of temperatures in the 70s and low 80s, the operator of the state's power grid called for energy conservation.

"Due to a combination of high gen outages typical in April & higher-than-forecasted demand caused by a stalled cold front over TX, ERCOT may enter emergency conditions," ERCOT said in a tweet just after 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Around 8:40 p.m., ERCOT rescinded the request.

This comes two months after a catastrophic failure to keep the lights on and homes warm during an historic winter storm shook Texans' faith in the strength of the grid to work properly.

ERCOT says this was a combination of an underforecasted amount of people using their AC at home and power plants being down for normal maintenance. An SMU energy expert says this is a case of poor planning on ERCOT.

Many who saw ERCOT’s tweet urging customers to conserve energy had flashbacks to the extended outages during February's winter storm that contributed to 125 deaths across Texas.

Bruce Bullock is the director of the Maguire Energy Institute at the SMU Cox School of Business.

"This is the kind of conservation call we usually get in July or August, but certainly not in April," he said.

Despite temperatures across the state being nowhere near record highs, ERCOT says the call for conservation was due to a higher-than-normal load on the grid partially because of underforecasting on their part.

Woody Rickerson is the VP of grid operations for ERCOT. On a media call Tuesday, he said customer outages were not "expected" but explained why the grid was barely keeping up with demand.

Rickerson said a combination of regularly scheduled outages for plant undergoing maintenance and, in their opinion, the unexpected increase in people using their AC units because a cold front stalled.

"What we are looking at today is at most a four-hour time period where generation and load, that balancing act is pretty tight than what we normally want to operate with," he said.

"April is usually a pretty good month for that because it’s a relatively mild month weather-wise," Bullock said. "However, I would still say this is another job of poor forecasting."

ERCOT says solar-generated energy was also low because of cloud cover.

Some generation was down from the winter storm, but ERCOT says it was a very small amount.

And wind was also down, but Bullock says wind is not a big generator during daytime hours.

"I think this is really turn up the heat on this issue in the legislature because clearly this deserves more scrutiny than it has already," he said. "We were talking about planning for a very unexpected event. Forecasting wise, this is a little bit different animal that needs to be looked at."

When asked if a call for conservation could happen again in a few weeks, the ERCOT VP said it’s a possibility.


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