The problem with summer heat in Texas is everything get hot, especially generators and transmission lines. These make and carry the electricity that helps keep you cool. When the electricity demand-load gets close to out-stripping supply, ERCOT works to reduce that load before any trouble starts.
Most recently, on July 29, 2015, 1518 megawatts (MW) of generation capacity suddenly went offline at 6:17 pm, leaving ERCOT to draw from thepool of generators it keeps as an operating reserve, while demand stayed above 67,000 MW for three consecutive hours, with demand peaking at 67,590 MW during the hour ending at 5 pm.
So, what does happen if demand overcomes supply? In order to prevent damage to the energy grid most Texans use, ERCOT attempts to shed electrical load by lowering frequency from 60 hertz to about 58 hertz, reducing voltage below 110 volts (which can cause brownouts), or, in the most extreme case, begin rolling blackouts.
So far, those last two possibilities are pretty remote. This summer, ERCOT is prepared for 68,000 MW of peak demand, and it maintains a generation reserve of 15%, bringing its total generating capacity up to 77,000 MW.
But balancing high demand loads with capacity can be tricky without help. This is where you enter the picture! You can help by conserving electricity at work and at home during peak hours with these tips from ERCOT:
- Turn off all unnecessary lights, appliances, and electronics.
- 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 leaving home, set air conditioning thermostats to 85 degrees and turn all fans off. Close blinds or drapes to keep out the sun’s heat.
- Do not use your dishwasher, laundry equipment, hair dryers, coffeemakers, 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 ranges or ovens.
- Set your pool pump to run in the early morning or late evening, not during peak demand hours.
Stay in the loop! Check out ERCOT’s Energy Emergency Alerts page to keep informed about Texas electricity conditions.