Texas grid avoids blackouts with voluntary cutbacks amid scorching heat

Source: By Eileen Soreng in Bengaluru, Gary McWilliams in Houston, Laila Kearney and Scott DiSavino in New York, Reuters • Posted: Tuesday, July 12, 2022

HOUSTON, July 11 (Reuters) – Texas’s power grid operator held off from imposing rolling blackouts on Monday using voluntary cutbacks and appeals to conserve energy as scorching triple-digit temperatures hit much of the state.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) warned of a potential shortage in reserves “with no market solution available.” Its website showed the operator entered late afternoon with about 3,600 megawatts of operating reserves – which could power three-quarters of a million homes.

“We have approached all Texans and Texas businesses to conserve energy,” an ERCOT spokesperson said via email, adding the grid was not currently in emergency mode.

Large industrial power users helped avoid blackouts with power cuts, including companies that mine for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Riot Blockchain and Argo Blockchain said on social media they would curtail usage to help stabilize the state’s grid.

There are about 10 cryptocurrency mining facilities connected to the grid, ERCOT said, adding it expects demand for cryptocurrency grid connections to grow over the next four years.

The grid operator, which oversees power to more than 26 million people in the state, declined to comment on specific company power usage or facilities.

ERCOT had assured residents earlier this year that it had enough reserves to meet demand after millions of people suffered without power through a deep freeze in early 2021 for several days.

Daniel Bosquez carries a plastic pool to his friend’s apartment, as San Antonio is under an excessive heat warning, in San Antonio, Texas, U.S. July 11, 2022. Bosquez found the pool discarded on his walk and it just needed to be cleaned, so he took it for kids to play in. REUTERS/Lisa Krantz

Since May, the state “has set and broken power demand records 26 times without any systemwide issues or disruptions,” said a spokesperson for Governor Greg Abbott. “Each time there is a call for conservation, Texans step up and do their part.”

High or dangerous heat levels were felt across much of the state on Monday, with temperatures in Austin hitting 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39 degrees Celsius) and Houston touching 100 Fahrenheit at 3 p.m., according to the U.S. National Weather Service (NWS).

ERCOT asked residents to conserve electricity between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., saying demand could reach 79,934 megawatts (MW) on Monday and 80,104 MW on Tuesday, not far from Monday’s expected 80,200 MW of available reserves.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner advised police and fire chiefs in the nation’s fourth most populated city “to prepare in case the state’s power grid fails during extreme heat.”

One megawatt can power about 200 homes on a hot summer day in Texas.

Texas last called for energy conservation in May, during an earlier heat wave that drove up prices to more than $4,000 a megawatt hour after six generators tripped offline. read more

The state’s day-ahead market has several hours on Monday afternoon listed at more than $1,000 a megawatt hour (MWh) and one at over $2,000, which is more than twice the peak price on Sunday.

Reporting by Eileen Soreng in Bengaluru, Gary McWilliams in Houston, Laila Kearney and Scott DiSavino in New York; Editing by Susan Fenton, Bernadette Baum and Aurora Ellis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.