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After six power plants went down unexpectedly Friday — and with hot weather expected across Texas this weekend — the Electric Reliability Council of Texas on Friday evening is asking consumers to conserve electricity through Sunday.
Texans are asked to set their thermostats to 78 degrees or above between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. this weekend and to avoid using large appliances at home during those same times.
A spokesperson for ERCOT, which operates the state’s main power grid, told The Texas Tribune he does not expect there to be electricity blackouts this weekend.
Texas power grid FAQs
What did the Legislature do to fix the power grid after the February crisis?
Senate Bills 2 and 3 included a few key changes to the grid that experts said will begin to address some issues, such as requiring power companies to upgrade plants to withstand more extreme weather and creating a statewide emergency alert system. The legislation also changes how the Electric Reliability Council of Texas' governing board is appointed.
What more could the Legislature have done to fix the grid?
Energy experts say lawmakers could have passed legislation to pay consumers to reduce electricity usage or help Texans better insulate their homes and reduce their electricity usage. Lawmakers also didn't provide direct aid to people harmed by the February crisis.
What should I do to conserve electricity?
ERCOT said Texans can reduce electricity use during the summer by reducing electricity use during the late afternoon hours, when demand typically peaks. You can do this by setting your thermostat to 78 degrees (or a level that is safe for you); turning off lights and pool pumps; avoiding use of large appliances such as ovens, washing machines and dryers; and turning off or unplugging unused electric appliances.
ERCOT did not say why the plants unexpectedly tripped offline. All reserve power was operating to support the grid, the agency said.
The power plant failures led to a loss of about 2,900 megawatts of electricity, which is enough to power more than 580,000 homes.
Power grids must keep supply and demand in balance at all times. When Texas’ grid falls below its safety margin of excess supply, the grid operator starts taking additional precautions to avoid blackouts. The first precaution is to ask the public to cut back electricity usage.
April and May are referred to as “shoulder months” in the energy world. That’s the time of year when power plants go offline in order to conduct necessary maintenance and other repairs before the hot summer months.
ERCOT, however, has recently told multiple power generation companies to delay maintenance on their equipment so the grid could keep up with the hotter-than-usual temperatures recently, which in turn leads to elevated demand for power when Texans crank their air conditioners.
Friday’s power plant outages were unrelated to the recent maintenance delays, an ERCOT spokesperson said.
While it’s not uncommon for power grid operators to ask consumers to cut back on electricity use as a precautionary measure, many Texans vividly remember February 2021, when millions of people were without power for days in subfreezing temperatures after a combination of cold weather across the state and skyrocketing demand for energy shut down power plants as well as the natural gas facilities that supply them with fuel. Hundreds of people died.
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