Texans set second summer electric use record on heat

HOUSTON Mon Jul 13, 2009 7:32pm EDT

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HOUSTON (Reuters) - Texas set a second all-time electric use record on Monday as blazing heat and a lack of rain kept air conditioners running amid temperatures in the low triple-digit range across the state, according to initial data from the state grid operator.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) said power use at the hour ending at 5 p.m. CDT (2200 GMT) was 63,454 megawatts, surpassing last week's peak-hour record of 62,786 MW.

No power disruptions were reported and no unusual emergency action was taken by the grid operator. ERCOT said high electric demand is expected to continue Tuesday.

Most of Texas, Oklahoma, southern Kansas, southern Arkansas and northern Louisiana will experience withering heat again Tuesday as an "iron-clad high pressure" system remains anchored over the region, said AccuWeather.com.

High temperatures across the northern half of Texas on Monday exceeded 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius).

By mid-week, the high pressure may shift west, bringing some relief from the heat, AccuWeather.com said.

Monday's record was the second set this month. Normally, Texas sees power use peak in August unless hurricanes or afternoon storms limit demand. The previous all-time demand record was 62,339 MW set in August 2006.

Monday's peak-hour consumption was just 37 MW shy of ERCOT's projection for the summer of 63,491 MW. The grid operator trimmed the summer forecast this year due to the economic slowdown. The projection is 4.2 percent below 2008's forecast but 2 percent above the 2008 actual demand peak which was reduced by cool weather.

Real-time ERCOT power prices on Monday remained steady, hitting $200 per megawatt-hour for just 15 minutes as power demand rose, according to the ERCOT website.

Power prices for Tuesday delivery in Texas fell below $60 per MWh, continuing the slide seen since last week when prices jumped to the low $220s per MWh.

Less than 900 megawatts of electricity was being produced by the state's 8,100 MW of wind generation between 4 and 5 p.m. CDT, according to the grid website.

ERCOT leads the nation in installed wind generation capacity at 8,135 MW. However, ERCOT counts only 8.7 percent of the wind total as dependable during peak hours because wind blows the least in the summer.

One megawatt can serve about 500 average homes under normal conditions in Texas or 200 homes during hot weather when air conditioners run for longer periods of time.

(Reporting by Eileen O'Grady; Editing by Christian Wiessner)

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