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ERCOT asks Texans to conserve electricity Monday morning amid continued freezing weather

People sit at their desks with multiple screens in front of them and larger screens on the wall ahead of them. Central Texas is under a winter weather advisory, a wind chill advisory and a hard freeze warning. This extended period of bitterly cold weather has the state's grid officials urging conservation on Monday morning.
Julia Reihs
/
KUT News
Central Texas is under a winter weather advisory, a wind chill advisory and a hard freeze warning. This extended period of bitterly cold weather has the state's grid official urging conservation on Monday morning.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas is asking people to voluntarily conserve electricity Monday from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. as bitterly cold weather is expected to drive up energy demand and reduce electric reserves on the power grid.

“We request Texas businesses and residents conserve electricity use, if safe to do so,” wrote ERCOT in a media release late Sunday afternoon.

The request comes as forecasts issued by ERCOT have often shown a tightening of energy supplies in Texas on Monday and Tuesday mornings.

Earlier in the week, officials had said they expected “normal operations” through the mid-January freeze as ample electric reserves were expected.

“Due to continued freezing temperatures, very high demand and unseasonably low wind, operating reserves for the Texas power grid are expected to be low Monday morning, Jan. 15, prior to the solar ramp up,” ERCOT wrote Sunday. ERCOT said it expects a similar situation on Tuesday.

The grid operator has a web page highlighting tips for Texans on how to conserve power. Those include lowering the thermostat by a degree or two; avoiding using large appliances like washers and driers; and turning off lights when not in use.

If grid conditions continue to worsen after asking for conservation, ERCOT may declare an energy emergency which gives it more options for stabilizing supply and demand on the system.

There are three such alert levels, mandated by federal regulation. Each one gives the grid operator more— sometimes costly — options to balance the grid.

At Energy Alert Level 1, for example, ERCOT may pull added energy from some of the few ties it maintains with neighboring grids. At Alert Level 2, ERCOT pays large industrial or commercial consumers to reduce their power consumption to balance supply and demand on the grid.

If energy supply remains insufficient after these tactics are exhausted, controlled outages, often called rolling blackouts, become an option of last resort.

This is a developing story, check back for updates.

Mose Buchele focuses on energy and environmental reporting at KUT. Got a tip? Email him at mbuchele@kut.org. Follow him on Twitter @mosebuchele.
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