ERCOT: Consumers should conserve energy

UPDATE: Energy Emergency Alert cancelled

By Jill Courtney , Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - ERCOT, Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which ensures the electric grid and efficient electricity markets in Texas is calling for consumers and businesses to conserve energy due to the cold temperatures.

As temperatures across the state plummeted, power usage skyrocketed. This prompted state officials to call for conservation to avoid the possibility of instituting rolling blackouts.

Officials with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas reported power use peaked Monday at 55,486 megawatts. This number is just shy of the 57,265 megawatts consumed by Texans during the February 2011 freeze and ice storms. This spike in demand, coupled with two power generating stations in north central Texas going down brought the state the brink of instituting rolling blackouts.

Officials with ERCOT said they also had to import power from Mexico and the eastern US during peak times. State officials said once energy use started to drop they decided there was no need to implement rolling blackouts.

State officials also said the two power plants that went down due to freezing instrumentation is a far cry from the 25 percent of the power generating plants that went down during the 2011 winter storms.

ERCOT officials said following the problems in 2011 they launched an aggressive statewide initiative to ensure power generating plants were properly prepared for freezing temperatures. However, State officials said they expect power consumption to again spike during the overnight hours and are calling on consumers to limit their usage.

Both city of Houston and Harris County Emergency Management officials told Local 2 since there is no rain expected with this freeze they don't anticipate any major roadway or infrastructure problems.

ERCOT issued an Energy Emergency Alert (Level 2) early Monday morning, saying its reserves are low. Around 9:45 a.m., ERCOT cancelled its Energy Emergency Alert.

"EEA 1 canceled -- conservation still encouraged as cold weather continues," ERCOT wrote on Twitter.

"Cold weather will continue through tomorrow (Tuesday) morning, and we will continue to monitor conditions closely," said Dan Woodfin, ERCOT director of System Operations. "Consumers are encouraged to use electricity wisely, and a conservation alert remains in effect throughout the ERCOT region."

At this point, the is no threat to implement rotating outages.

Here are some ways to help until operating reserves are restored to target levels:

  • Keep your thermostat as low as is comfortable, preferably no higher than 68 degrees.
  • Turn off and unplug non-essential lights and appliances.
  • Avoid running large appliances such as washers, dryers and electric ovens during peak energy demand hours (6-9 a.m. and 4-8 p.m.).
  • Close shades and blinds at night to reduce the amount of heat lost through windows.
  • Businesses should minimize the use of electric lighting and electricity-consuming equipment as much as possible.
  • Large consumers of electricity should consider shutting down or reducing non-essential production processes.

Click here for other conservation tips.

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