'The lights will stay on:' ERCOT, PUC vow to keep up with energy demand for upcoming heat

With a long stretch of triple-digit temperatures on the way, the people in charge of the Texas energy grid say they expect record demand for electricity. But they say there's no current threat of blackouts.

Huge changes are in the works to fix the Texas power grid, but real change will take years. 

In the meantime, ERCOT says it has things under control to keep up with the demand this summer starting with the record demand anticipated next week. 

The chair of the Public Utility Commission made a bold promise to keep the lights on as Texas braces for the real summer heat to begin in earnest next week. But Peter Lake says the changes ERCOT has already made should help Texas power through. 

"It will be tight for the rest of the summer," he said. "We know the heat is coming, but we are ready for it."

One of the biggest changes underway is to infuse more money into the system so power producers have enough to keep their generating equipment up to par. 

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HOUSTON, TEXAS - JUNE 15: Transmission towers are shown on June 15, 2021 in Houston, Texas. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which controls approximately 90% of the power in Texas, has requested Texas residents to conserve power thr

"Historically, our market has focused on affordability first and reliability second," Lake said. "But now, reliability is first."

That comes at a cost of $2 for each Texan or about $8 a month per household. 

On top of that, bills will eventually go up another estimated $15 a month to pay for February's failures. 

Ed Hirs, Energy Fellow with the University of Houston, has been sounding the alarm about the Texas grid since 2013. He says it is far better to pay money to generators upfront than to pay for damages when there is a catastrophe.

"I'm paying for someone else blowing up the grid in February, and I did not get the benefit of it," he said. "I had blackouts, too. We are all paying for someone else's mistakes in addition to the hundreds of lives, and billions lost. 

Hirs says the long-term plan discussed Thursday, if carried out, will put the Texas grid on the right track. But he estimates truly fixing the grid will take three to four years. And in the meantime, there could be additional blackouts. 

"Nothing they said today gives me any real encouragement about the power staying on this summer," he said.

ERCOT and the PUC do expect to still issue conservation requests as demand increases. But they say unlike in February, those requests will not be a signal that blackouts are on the way. 

"Conservation is a tool we intend to use," said ERCOT CEO Brad Jones. "It’s a tool used across the country and across the world to keep grids reliable."