The heat is on and the power is on across Texas. Last week, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which operates the state's power grid, reported all-time records for peak demand two days in a row. That has raised concerns about the possibility of outages or rolling blackouts due to strain on the power grid.
Despite the recent heatwave and its impact on residential consumption, we're doing all right, according to Dr. Michael Webber, deputy director of UT's Energy Institute. He tells KTRH that several factors have combined to drive up energy demand in recent years. "We've shut down some power plants while we've built some power plants, while in the meantime millions of people have moved to Texas and it has gotten hotter," he says. "Air conditioners drive a lot of the peak demand for cooling our homes, so it's really pushing the grid to its limit so to speak, but it seems to be hanging in there."
In fact, when allowing for the large population growth in Texas, the grid is actually doing pretty well. "After a decade of energy efficiency programs, peak shifting programs, remote controlled air conditioners, and conservation as a whole, the peak demand is actually not as bad as people thought it would be," says Webber.
Rolling blackouts are not a threat right now---they haven't happened in Texas since 2011---as ERCOT says it is "working around the clock to keep the power on for consumers." Nevertheless, Webber believes all Texans can do their small part to help by simply turning up the thermostat a few degrees, or selectively turning the A/C off.
"In my house we have different air conditioners in each bedroom," says Webber. "And so when the kids are gone all day or my daughter is off at college, we actually close the bedroom doors and turn off the air conditioner in there, so we're only air conditioning the spaces that we actually use and need."