May 5, 2023 - News

Officials warn of power grid strain this summer

Illustration of the state of Texas combined with an electricity pylon whose power lines are damaged and fallen

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The Texas power grid operator is predicting record demand this summer and warns that brownouts could be possible.

Driving the news: The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) released its summer seasonal assessment this week, projecting how much energy the power grid will have and need from June to September.

State of play: The state's population is growing rapidly and summer temperatures continue to rise, straining the power grid.

Flashback: Mass power outages during a February 2021 winter storm led to hundreds of deaths and property damage totaling nearly $200 billion, according to an after-action report.

  • ERCOT officials asked Texans to conserve energy last summer, when the grid set 11 all-time peak-demand records.

By the numbers: ERCOT predicts peak demand will reach 82,739 megawatts this summer, above last year's high of nearly 80,000.

  • One megawatt is enough electricity to power about 200 homes on a summer day.
  • The grid operator projects having 97,000 megawatts of energy available during peak demand.

Yes, but: Peak demand will exceed available power from coal, nuclear and natural gas facilities, meaning the grid will have to rely on renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.

  • Texans face the highest risk of losing power around 9pm, when the sun has set and wind decreases, per officials with ERCOT and the Public Utility Commission.

What they're saying: "There is no longer enough dispatchable generation to meet the demand of the ERCOT system. So, we will be relying on renewables to keep the lights on," PUC chairman Peter Lake said this week.

What's next: The National Weather Service predicts above-average summer heat this year.

  • El Niño is expected to develop this summer, bringing hotter temperatures. Climate experts say this summer and next could set new records.

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