San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

August 2nd, 2011
ERCOT sets electricity demand record Monday, advises conservation this week


The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the system operator for the state’s bulk transmission grid, is asking consumers and businesses to reduce their electricity use this week during peak electricity hours, which are 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

ERCOT initiated Energy Emergency Alert Level 1 at 2:40 p.m. when responsive reserves dropped below 2,300 megawatts (MW). Capacity is expected to be tight over the peak today, and ERCOT operators are closely monitoring the situation.

ERCOT manages electric flow to 23 million Texas customers, including San Marcos residents.

ERCOT set a new electricity demand record of 66,867 MW on Monday between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m., and expects to break the record again this week. Monday’s new peak demand record exceeds the previous all-time record by 1,091 MW. The previous record was set on Aug. 23, 2010 with 65,776 MW.

“At this time, we have sufficient generation to meet the demand this week, but it will be tight over the peak hours, particularly 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., which means that significant generation outages could make us short of operating reserves,” said Kent Saathoff, ERCOT vice president of system planning and operations.

One megawatt of power is enough electricity to power about 200 homes in Texas during hot weather when air conditioners are running for long periods of time, according to ERCOT. One megawatt can power 500 homes under normal conditions.

As of Monday evening, the peak demand forecast for Tuesday was 67,084 MW.

“The ERCOT region is continuing to experience record high temperatures throughout the state, which is causing high electricity usage,” Saathoff said. “We expect to break our all-time peak electricity demand Tuesday and Thursday, depending on weather conditions.”

According to ERCOT, if daily operating reserves shrink smaller than target thresholds, the grid operators will initiate emergency procedures, which involve a series of progressive steps to authorize additional capacity from other grids. The emergency procedures also involve dropping interruptible loads, or large industrial customers under contract to be dropped during emergency situations.

ERCOT advises consumers to deactivate unnecessary lights and electrical appliances between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., and delay laundry and other activities that require electricity-consuming appliances until later in the evening. ERCOT recommends the following conservation tips:

• Turn off all unnecessary lights, appliances, and electronic equipment.
• When at home, close blinds and drapes that get direct sun, set air conditioning thermostats to 78 degrees or higher, and use fans to cool the air.
• When away from home, set air conditioning thermostats to 85 degrees and turn all fans off before leaving. Block the sun by closing blinds or drapes on windows that will get direct sun.
• Do not use dishwashers, laundry equipment, hair dryers, coffee makers, or other home appliances during the peak hours of 3 to 7 p.m.
• Avoid opening refrigerators or freezers more than necessary.
• Use microwaves for cooking instead of an electric range or oven.
• Set pool pumps to run in the early morning or evening instead of the afternoon.
• 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.

ERCOT electricity demand and energy records since April are as follows:

• August peak electricity demand so far is 66,867 MW–a new record for August. The previous record prior to this year was 65,776 MW (Aug. 23, 2010)
• July peak electricity demand was 65,195 MW–a new record for July. The previous record was 63,400 MW (July 13, 2009)
• June peak demand was 63,102 MW–a new record for June. The previous record was 62,278 MW (June 25, 2009).
• May peak demand was 57,356 MW–a new record for May. The previous record was 56,344 MW (May 23, 2008).
• June energy was 33.6 terawatt-hours (TWh)–5.7 percent higher than June 2010
• May energy was 27.8 TWh–2.1 percent higher than May 2010
• April energy was 24.6 TWh–14.4 percent higher than April 2010

ERCOT Peak Demand History from 2000 to 2010 is as follows:

• 57,606 MW on Aug. 31, 2000.
• 54,729 MW on Aug. 15, 2001.
• 56,248 MW on Aug. 26, 2002.
• 60,095 MW on Aug. 7, 2003.
• 58,531 MW on Aug. 3, 2004.
• 60,274 MW on Aug. 23, 2005.
• 62,339 MW on Aug. 17, 2006.
• 62,174 MW on Aug. 13, 2007
• 62,174 MW on Aug. 4, 2008.
• 63,400 MW on July 13, 2009.
• 65,776 MW on Aug. 23, 2010.
• 66,867 MW on Aug. 1, 2011.

ERCOT manages 85 percent of the state’s electric load and 75 percent of the Texas land area. The electric grid on which ERCOT schedules power connects 40,500 miles of transmission lines and more than 550 generation units, according to the entity’s website.

(Assistant editor’s note: In a statement issued Tuesday afternoon, the City of San Marcos Electric Utility urged its consumers and businesses to “reduce their electricity use during peak electricity hours from 3 to 7 p.m., due to record high temperatures and unusually high strain on the statewide electrical grid.”)

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