Austin Power Plant EG TT 19.jpeg

Electrical transformers at the Austin Energy/Sand Hill Energy Center in Del Valle on March 24, 2020.

AUSTIN — Texas’ main power grid struggled to keep up with the demand for electricity Monday, prompting the operator to ask Texans to conserve power until Friday.

The conservation request comes at a time of heightened anxiety around electricity following the state’s catastrophic February power outages that left millions without electricity for days. The outages that were prompted by a severe winter storm may have killed as many as 700 people, according to an analysis of mortality data by Buzzfeed news.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas said in a statement that a significant number of power plant outages combined with record use of electricity has resulted in tight grid conditions. Approximately 11,000 megawatts of generation is offline for repairs, or enough to power 2.2 million homes on a hot summer day. Typically, only about 3,600 megawatts of generation is offline during a summer day.

“This is unusual for this early in the summer season,” said Woody Rickerson, ERCOT vice president of grid planning and operations, in a statement. He said the grid operator would conduct an analysis to determine why so many units are offline this week.

Maintenance outages are more common during the spring and fall as power plants prepare for the extreme heat in the summer or extreme cold in the winter.

Companies’ maintenance outage requests are “automatically accepted” if submitted 45 days in advance, ERCOT previously told the media in an April conference call. The grid operator may reject outage requests submitted with fewer than 45 days of notice.

The high number of outages combined with record demand this week: The grid operator estimates demand for electricity could exceed 73,000 megawatts on Monday. The previous record for June was 69,100 megawatts in 2018.

Texans can reduce electricity use by setting the thermostat to 78 degrees or higher; turning off lights and pool pumps; avoiding use of large appliances such as ovens, washing machines and dryers; and turning off or unplugging unused electric appliances.

"Texas' main power grid operator urges reduced electricity use through Friday due to "tight grid conditions"" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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