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Summer electricity demand is down in Texas

By: Nicholas Sakelaris |

Cooler temperatures and rain are a cause for celebration not just because it’s made this Texas summer more tolerable and electric bills lower than normal.

Looking at the big picture, the Texas electric grid has had a fairly easy time meeting demand, at least so far, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, an electric grid that covers 85 percent of the state.

The grid also got a 2,100-megawatt boost with three new natural gas power plants. Panda Power Funds’ plant in Sherman went online earlier this summer and another one in Temple will start producing power this week, said Robbie Searcy, a spokeswoman for ERCOT. The Ferguson Replacement plant in Llano County also becomes commercially available this week.

In earlier projections, ERCOT anticipated tight reserves as summer started with increased capacity coming Aug. 1 from these three new plants. Concerns about running out of electricity and even brown outs earlier this summer didn’t materialize, thanks to the weather.

“The mild weather has made it simpler in the early months while we were waiting for the new generation to come online,” Searcy said.

So far, peak demand for 2014 is 63,500 megawatt hours set on July 21. With more cool temperatures forecast later this week, Searcy said that record likely will remain intact for this month.

How strong is the correlation between temperature and electricity demand? In looking at the temperature highs and lows for the San Antonio area on AccuWeather.com, we find there have been several days when the highs have approached the 100-degree mark but not surpassed it.

That cooler June resulted in less power consumption as grid demand declined about 500,000 MW from the same period in 2013. Peak demand didn’t even surpass 60,000 MW: the peak occurred on June 30 at 59,786 MW. Compare that to 2013 when demand peaked at 64,418 MW.

Wind power produced 3.9 million MWh of power in June, a new record for ERCOT. For the month, wind power produced 12.4 percent of ERCOT’s power. More than 8,000 MW more wind power is planned by 2017 in Texas.

But summer 2014 could still have some tricks up its sleeve with all of August yet to come. The all-time record for ERCOT power consumption remains 68,305 MW set on Aug. 3, 2011 in the midst of that unprecedented heat wave.

“There’s still a chance that we’ll see some of those high numbers in August,” Searcy said.