Dallas, Texas – Texans are asked to limit the power use until the end of the week as several power generators unexpectedly went down amid a heat wave, state’s power grid operator announced.
According to them, the demand for electricity is increasing as temperatures are closing to 100-degrees in North Texas. But unexpected 12,000 megawatts of generation went offline, enough to power more than 2 million homes. Officials are not sure what led so many generators to go offline, but they think it’s probably because of mechanical failure or the need for repairs.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas has said it is confident the state’s troubled power grid will hold up through the summer months after the deadly February blackouts. But officials conceded this week’s power squeeze is unusual.
“I find the current number of units on outage to be very concerning,” said Warren Lasher, ERCOT’s Senior Director of System Planning, during a teleconference Monday. “We operate the grid with the resources that we have available and it’s the responsibility of the generation owners to make sure their plants are available.” “This is not consistent with fleet performance over the past few summers,” he added.
Texans are being asked to save energy through Friday by setting thermostats to 78 degrees or higher and avoiding use of large appliances, like ovens and washing machines.
The call for conservation comes as fears persist about the reliability of the state’s electric grid, after a winter storm in February triggered statewide power outages that left millions without heat and at least 133 people dead.
“This is a priority to ensure that generators can perform as we head into summer months,” said ERCOT spokeswoman Leslie Sopko. “We are immediately working to mitigate this risk.”
It’s not the first time Texans have been asked to cut back on energy use since the winter storm. On a mild April day, ERCOT issued a conservation notice to residents and businesses as it struggled to meet electricity demand that was higher than forecasted.
This week’s conservation call is notable because it comes so early in the summer season and lasts for multiple days, said Doug Lewin, an independent energy consultant with Stoic Energy.
“This is highly unusual,” said Lewin, who is based in Austin. “This is just not the way things are supposed to work. They are supposed to be ready.” ERCOT did not name the generators that are offline. The majority — about 9,000 megawatts — are thermal power sources fueled by coal, natural gas or nuclear power, officials said. One of the two units at the Comanche Peak nuclear plant in North Texas was taken offline over the weekend after a radiation monitor malfunctioned, according to Bloomberg News.
“We’re currently seeing three to four times the number of forced thermal generation outages on our system than we would typically expect to see this time of year,” Sopko said.
“We’re also seeing lower wind output than we would typically expect to see during peak conditions on a summer day and solar is also down,” she said.
It remains to be seen whether the episode will trigger calls for further action by the Legislature. State lawmakers are expected to return for a special session later this year to take up a contentious elections bill and redistricting. Gov. Greg Abbott recently signed several bills that make sweeping changes to the state’s electricity grid and ERCOT’s leadership, declaring at the time that “everything that needed to be done was done to fix the power grid in Texas.”
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins on Monday called the power conservation notice a “failure on the part of the state.”
“We need to do something about it right away,” Jenkins said on NBC5.