The Electric Reliability Council of Texas logged its highest-ever electricity usage this summer, which officials say was due to the record breaking “hotter-than-hell” summer and drought conditions. Although ERCOT narrowly avoided rotating blackouts, they are looking ahead to determine exactly how to deal with next summer if Texas remains in this extraordinary drought.
ERCOT reached the all time high peak demand on Aug. 3, when the grid hit 68,379 megawatts as Texas used increased air conditioning to battle the soaring temperatures.
“We essentially had a record-breaking load because this was a record-breaking summer,” said Kent Saathoff, VP of ERCOT’s grid operations and system planning. “If we had had a normal summer this year — normal defined as the average of the last 10 years — we would have had about a 64,000 [megawatt] load.”
On two different occasions last summer, ERCOT paid large industrial users of electricity to temporarily remove themselves from the electricity grid. This radical move allowed ERCOT to narrowly avoid state-wide rolling blackouts.
In addition to paying large users to disconnect, ERCOT sent notifications to the press asking Texans to conserve electricity during August.
The focus now is on the year 2012, specifically whether or not this devastating drought continues.
The drought not only affects how much electricity is used from the grid, it also determines the amount of water in the power plants’ cooling ponds.
“If we don’t get any rain between now and next summer, there could be several thousand megawatts of generators that won’t have sufficient cooling water to operate next summer,” Saathoff said.
“The first part of next year, when we’ve got a better idea of what the loads might be for next summer and what our available generation is going to be, we’ll have a good idea of what we might be facing,” he said.