The state of Texas’ main power grid operator has asked residents to conserve energy during a likely hot weekend after six power plants unexpectedly shut down.
The Electrical Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) asked residents to lower thermostats to 78 degrees Fahrenheit or higher between 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays and to avoid using larger appliances.
“With unusually hot weather driving record demand in Texas, ERCOT continues to work closely with the electric industry to ensure Texans have the energy they need,” the organization said in a statement on May 13.
The National Weather Service is forecasting a “widespread heat wave early in the season with potential record temperatures of up to 97 degrees on Saturday and over 100 degrees on Sunday in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Temperatures are expected to remain high through next week.
The federal weather agency warns that “highs in the 90s and 100s can pose a threat to people with poor cooling or heat sensitivity.”
It’s not clear why the plants failed on Friday; the failure caused a loss of about 2,900 megawatts of electricity, enough to power more than 580,000 homes, according to the Texas Tribune.
Operators typically start asking the public to reduce electricity use when a grid falls below a safe margin of excess supply to avoid blackouts.
As of Saturday morning, the ERCOT dashboard says “there is enough power for current demand.”
Utility operators often ask residents to reduce their electricity use or avoid using large appliances like washers and dryers in anticipation of periods of high energy use, such as during heat waves, even though Texans are on high alert for grid failures and power outages across the state after millions of people were without power for days in freezing conditions after a major winter and ice storm increased power demand, shutting down plants power and natural gas facilities.
The electricity crisis killed at least 246 people, although some estimates have put the death toll in excess of 700.
The state spent the next year appointing new regulators and amending legislation, but experts say the state is just as vulnerable in another winter storm, particularly as the accelerating climate crisis is likely to make these severe weather events more common.
The near collapse of the state’s electricity grid last year can also be attributed to a 1999 decision to effectively deregulate the system by handing over control of the state’s electricity supply infrastructure to a market-based network of private operators and systems. of energy.