Texans asked to conserve electricity through Friday as state's power grid struggles

ERCOT’s plea for Texans to limit their energy usage will last for another four days.

Energy experts are weighing in on the root of the problem, which they say they’ve been warning state leaders about for years. 

ERCOT is asking Texans to set their thermostats to 78 degrees or higher and avoid using large appliances as much as possible until Friday.

That's because a high number of power plants in Texas are unexpectedly offline for maintenance. 

When combined with a heat index above 100 degrees and high demand for power, it’s putting a strain on the grid.

Energy Fellow at the University of Houston Ed Hirs says in the state’s deregulated market, companies don’t have incentives to keep generation plants in working order. 

"I think we need to be worried. This is exactly what happens when folks don’t reinvest in an infrastructure. For more than ten years, we pointed it out that the Texas grid infrastructure is suffering for a lack of reinvestment," he said. "Revenues do not cover the cost of providing generation. This is the product of the grid market we live in. These electricity plants don’t earn money. They don’t make money unless they’re generating electricity. But the price is so low they don’t cover their costs." 

ERCOT met Tuesday morning to discuss its emergency response and planning. The council’s forecast anticipates record demand this summer, but Tuesday’s discussion looked beyond that.

"This is a situation where they have to take the plant offline in order to fix something in order to continue operations," said Warren Lasher, the senior director of system planning for ERCOT.

RELATED: ERCOT issues conservation alert for Texas electric customers with temperatures in 90s

ERCOT operates the grid that powers most of Texas but doesn’t supply electricity.

"We operate the grid with the resources we have available. It’s the responsibility of the generation owners to make sure their plants are available during peak hours when customer demand is very high during the summer months," Lasher said. "Why across the fleet are we seeing all of these unexpected, unplanned, unscheduled maintenance issues?"

Lasher called it concerning and said ERCOT is going to be doing analysis with power generation owners to determine exactly why so many plants are out of service at once.

"Exactly what types of events should we be looking at? How should we be thinking about the probabilities for those? How should that feed into our planning criteria effectively?" asked John Bernecker, ERCOT Transmission Planning Assessment Manager.

Energy experts say they have been warning state leaders for years about the worsening problem. 

"The question is why didn’t the Public Utility Commission, why didn’t the legislature, why didn’t the three governors we had preside over this failed market understand what was going on?" Hirs said.

Senate Bills Two and Three addressed some of the problems and added requirements for plant weatherization. But those measures will take years to implement. 

Hirs says they don’t address the root of the problem.

"We definitely need a special session to address the grid failure," he said. "The legislature and the governor are going to own up to this broken grid and do what it takes to fix it. It’s going to cost money."

More than 4 million Texans lost power as temperatures plunged into the single digits during a winter storm in February and at least 150 people died.

RELATED: Gov. Abbott signs bills addressing Texas' power grid failures

"Everything that needed to be done was done to fix the power grid in Texas," Abbott said of the new laws which increase governance over ERCOT and sets requirements for the weatherization of some power plants.

But some experts questioned if enough was done to avoid a future catastrophe and Monday's conservation alert is giving customers an uneasy feeling just as a stretch of high summer temperatures begins in Texas.

Despite the current call for conservation, no rolling outages are expected.