Texas power demand still high, conservation urged

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 25, 2012 1:17 PM
Texas power demand still high, conservation urged

(Reuters) - The Texas power grid did not expect to break the June electric peak demand record again on Wednesday, but the state's utilities continued to urge consumers to conserve power as temperatures remained in the triple digits in many parts of the Lone Star State.

On Tuesday, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the primary grid agency for the state, said demand for power broke the June record for a second day in a row.

Power demand reached 66,583 megawatts on Tuesday as homes and businesses cranked up their air conditioners to escape the heat, passing Monday's peak of 65,047 MW, according to preliminary grid data last night.

ERCOT forecast demand would peak near 65,200 MW Wednesday before easing to 63,000 MW Thursday and 60,600 MW Friday.

After topping 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius) in much of the state earlier in the week and breaking temperature records in a few cities, AccuWeather.com forecast temperatures would start to ease but much of the state will continue to bake with the mercury reaching the triple digits through the weekend.

Houston, the biggest city in the state, was forecast to reach 102 on Wednesday and 100 on Thursday before dipping to 97 on Friday. San Antonio, the state's second biggest city, and Dallas meanwhile will reach the triple digits until the weekend, AccuWeather.com said.

On Tuesday, ERCOT issued an advisory to generators as power supplies tightened, but avoided declaring an emergency.

Real-time power prices rose above $1,000 per megawatt-hour for a couple hours during the Tuesday afternoon peak as power supplies tightened and briefly reached the $3,000 maximum allowed. Real-time prices were in the teens early Wednesday.

DEMAND RESPONSE PLAN

On Tuesday, ERCOT's board approved of a new pilot project to help reduce demand on the electric grid when use is high and power supplies are tight.

The 30-minute Emergency Response Service pilot project, which is similar to demand response programs in other grids, will allow eligible participants a half hour to respond to ERCOT requests to reduce their electric use, the grid operator said.

The program is open to electric users -- either as individual customers or as part of an aggregated group of consumers -- who can reduce demand by at least 100 kilowatts, about the amount 20 homes use during peak demand.

The board authorized ERCOT to procure up to a total of 150 MW for the pilot, which will begin in mid-July.

One megawatt is enough to serve about 200 Texas homes during hot weather when air conditioners run for extended periods.

Last year, ERCOT set seven monthly peak-power records as extreme cold in February and a long heat wave hit the state.

So far this year, Texas has exceeded the monthly records in May and June.

The state's all-time peak use was 68,379 MW last August during a heat wave and drought.

The grid agency has projected that power use will peak at 67,492 MW this summer, about 1,300 MW above what would be expected in a normal weather scenario.

ERCOT has warned that rolling outages could occur this summer given the state's limited amount of surplus generation.

The state's shrinking reserve margin has led regulators to implement a number of wholesale market changes to encourage construction of power plants over the long-term.

Since no grid emergency was declared on Tuesday, the market has not yet tested the pricing changes regulators have implemented since last summer when an extended heat wave and drought forced ERCOT to declare emergencies on six days and to curtail power to some customers on two days in August to avoid widespread rolling outages.

The biggest transmission and generation companies in ERCOT include Luminant and Oncor, units of privately held Energy Future Holdings, CenterPoint Energy, American Electric Power, PNM Resources, NRG Energy, Exelon, NextEra Energy and Calpine.

(Reporting by Eileen O'Grady in Houston and Scott DiSavino in New York)