The Texas state power grid operator urged residents to conserve energy during a likely hot-weather weekend after six power plants unexpectedly went offline.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) urged residents to lower thermostats to 78 degrees Fahrenheit or higher between 3pm and 8pm on Saturday and Sunday and avoid using larger appliances.
“With exceptionally hot weather driving record demand across Texas, ERCOT continues to work closely with the energy industry to ensure Texans have the energy they need,” the organization said in a May 13 statement.
The National Weather Service predicts an “expansive heatwave early in the season, with record temperatures as high as 97 degrees on Saturday and above 100 degrees on Sunday in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Temperatures are expected to remain high until next week.
The federal weather agency warns that “highs in the 1990s and 100s could pose a threat to those with low sensitivity to cooling or heat.”
It’s unclear why the plants failed on Friday; the failure led to a loss of about 2,900 megawatts of electricity, enough to power more than 580,000 homes, according to the Texas Tribune.
Operators typically start asking the public to reduce electricity use when a grid drops below a safe margin of excess supply to avoid blackouts.
On Saturday morning, the ERCOT panel says that “there is enough energy for the current demand”.
Utilities often urge residents to reduce electricity use or avoid using large appliances such as washers and dryers in anticipation of periods of high energy usage such as during heat waves, although Texans are in high alert for grid failures and power outages across the state after millions of people were left without power for days in freezing conditions after a major winter and ice storm increased demand for energy, closing power plants and natural gas.
The energy crisis killed at least 246 people, although some estimates put the death toll as high as 700.
The state spent the next year appointing new regulators and tweaking legislation, but experts say the state is just as vulnerable in another winter storm, especially since the accelerating climate crisis is likely to make such severe weather events more common.
The near-collapse of the state’s electrical grid last year can also be attributed to a 1999 decision to effectively deregulate the system, handing over control of the state’s electricity supply infrastructure to a market-based network of private operators and power systems. .