Summer heatwave will test Texas power grid's capacity, experts say

The extreme heat pushed our power grid's capacity to meet energy demand to the brink Friday afternoon.

If this keeps up all summer, things could start looking dicey.

The next few days will put the state's power grid to the test. Experts say it's a good idea to keep extra batteries and ice on hand through this latest heat wave.

Ed Hirs is an energy economics professor at the University of Houston. He says the price of energy Friday revealed just how tight supply is in Texas right now.

"Prices are as high on a retail basis at more than 50 cents per kilowatt-hour," he said. "And keep in mind for years our wholesale price per kilowatt was not more than 3.5 cents per kilowatt-hour."

If supply gets too low, it could be the first test to see if the state has learned how to execute rolling blackouts, unlike the February 2021 storm.

HOUSTON, TEXAS - JUNE 09: An electric generator is seen at the CenterPoint Energy powerplant on June 09, 2022 in Houston, Texas. Power demand in Texas is expected to set new all-time highs as heatwaves surge to levels rarely seen outside of summer, a

"Rolling blackout of 30-40 minutes could work okay if judicially and competently. A year and a half ago, we did not have that," Hirs said.

In May after several generators failed, the state asked people to turn their thermostats up to 78 degrees.

"I haven't had that happen since President Carter was in office. That's not the way to run the grid, higher price and less service. That's like an old-fashioned monopoly," Hirs said.

The demand is expected to be so high over the next several days that ERCOT asked the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to allow discretion for generators to create more pollution if it means more power.

"What ERCOT is asking is to allow plants to burn dirtier fuel, and that may be necessary," Hirs said. "Similar to what president has authorized, which is summer without low emission fuel required."

Hirs says people's concerns this summer are justified.

"As we saw in February 2021, they were not prepared. They have a credibility gap. Hope they've learned their lessons," he said.

TCEQ said in a statement that the commission approved ERCOT's request for enforcement discretion to ensure energy supply can meet demand.