Deadly Heat Is Expected To Place Record Demand On Texas Grid

By Charlotte Aguilar
August 2, 2011

Dangerous heat is expected to create record demands on electricity today in Texas -- and while there’s nothing you can do about the temperatures, energy officials warn that it’s up to you whether electricity will flow continuously throughout this week.

Temperatures will continue into the triple digits all week in the Houston area and most of the state, with soaring humidity making it feel like 105-110 -- and even hotter north of Houston.

With that pattern of 100-plus-degree weather all over Texas, The Energy Reliability Council of Texas is forecasting the highest demand for electricity in history Tuesday, with similar usage throughout the week. ERCOT monitors and controls the electricity grid for the state and reminds users that they should especially curtail energy consumption between 3 and 7 p.m., when the demand is highest.

What the average person calls “brownouts” are officially termed “rotating outages” or “load shedding” by ERCOT, and spokeswoman Dottie Roark said they will be a last resort.

“Rotating outages are not implemented until the last step of the procedures -- they’re very rare,” she said, adding they’ve only been implemented three times. The most recent controlled outages were on Feb. 2 of this year when much of Texas was blanketed in snow and Houston was covered in ice.

In the Houston area, CenterPoint Energy says “we’re certainly supporting” ERCOT’s warnings, with spokeswoman Alicia Dixon emphasizing the 4-6 p.m. period “when everyone is coming home and cranking up the appliances.”

But there’s one power-guzzler in particular that both ERCOT and CenterPoint target. “It’s all about the air conditioning,” said Dixon. “Raising your thermostat just a few degrees makes all the difference.”