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ERCOT update: Energy conservation appeal has ended

A higher than expected amount of plant outages for maintenance — and a stalled cold front — created tight conditions for the grid Tuesday.
A higher than expected amount of plant outages for maintenance — and a stalled cold front —...
A higher than expected amount of plant outages for maintenance — and a stalled cold front — created tight conditions for the grid Tuesday.
Published: Apr. 13, 2021 at 4:58 PM CDT
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AUSTIN, Texas (Erin Douglas and Mitchell Ferman, The Texas Tribune) -

8:51 p.m. UPDATE: ERCOT has tweeted: “Our energy conservation appeal has ended without the need for an energy emergency. Thank you for conserving energy when it was needed.”

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The state’s main power grid operator asked Texans to conserve power Tuesday afternoon and into the evening as the electricity grid is barely keeping up with the demand for electricity.

But the Electric Reliability Council of Texas said it does not expect customer outages like those caused in February.

The tight conditions for the grid are being caused by a stalled cold front over Texas, combined with a high number of energy-producing plants being offline for maintenance.

“This emergency declaration allows us to access tools that will bring supply and demand back into line,” Woody Rickerson, an ERCOT vice president, said in a statement.

Maintenance outages are very common during the spring and fall. Those outages are higher than usual right now, a spokesperson told the Tribune early Tuesday, due to additional repairs necessary from the February winter storm.

A spokesperson for ERCOT was not immediately available to comment Tuesday afternoon.

Data from ERCOT showed that the current demand for energy on the grid was near 49,000 megawatts at 5 p.m., when the available supply to the grid was about 50,000 megawatts. That’s much less than the peak demand it neared during February, about 72,000 megawatts, when energy use surpassed record levels as Texans tried to stay warm during a severe winter storm.

But ERCOT said a significant chunk of its generation is currently down due to maintenance. Approximately 33,000 megawatts of generation was offline earlier this week, according to an ERCOT spokesperson.

The supply and demand for power must remain balanced on electricity grids at all times. Asking Texans to conserve power is among the first steps the grid operator takes in order to bring it back in balance.

While maintenance repairs are common this time of year, experts said the amount of outages was still significant.

“It borders the edge of reasonable,” Beth Garza, director of ERCOT’s independent watchdog from 2014 to 2019, told the Tribune.

ERCOT conservation steps include:

  • Turn off any unnecessary lights and equipment.
  • Turn the thermostat up 2 to 3 degrees.
  • Set programmable thermostats to higher temperatures when no one is home.
  • Use fans to feel 4 to 6 degrees cooler.
  • Limit use of large appliances (i.e., dishwasher, washer, dryer, etc.).
  • If you cook indoors, use a microwave or slow cooker.
  • Close blinds and drapes during late afternoon.
  • Schedule pool pumps to run in the early morning or overnight hours.

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