HOUSTON, March 3 The Texas electric grid
operator extended its call for residents and businesses to
conserve power until Tuesday morning as a late arctic cold front
that barreled as far as South Texas boosted the state's
electricity consumption to a monthly record on Monday.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the
state's primary grid, had issued a public call for conservation
on Sunday evening, citing freezing temperatures that would
strain available generation capacity.
"With the continued cold weather, we expect conditions to
remain tight, especially during the early evening tonight and
early morning hours tomorrow," said Dan Woodfin, director of
system operations for ERCOT.
"We have asked all available generation units to remain
available, but we believe conservation by consumers also will be
necessary to help maintain reliability during this cold March
weather," said Woodfin.
Electricity usage in Texas has set peak-hour records in at
least five of the past six months, according to ERCOT data.
Power demand early on Monday reached 54,549 megawatts in the
hour ending at 8 a.m. CDT (1400 GMT), surpassing the 47,665 MW
record set on Sunday evening as sub-freezing temperatures and
high winds pushed deep into the state, according to the ERCOT
The previous March record use for ERCOT was 43,033 MW set in
2002. Monday's March peak is 27 percent above the March 2002
The record autumn and winter power usage has come as
regulators and some power plant owners disagree about whether
Texas' $35 billion power market needs an overhaul to encourage
construction of new power plants.
Last week, ERCOT issued its summer supply outlook after
lowering expectations for peak power use in the years ahead.
ERCOT was able to avoid a repeat of the emergency steps
taken in early January to prevent rolling outages.
Real-time power prices briefly hit the market cap of $5,000
per megawatt-hour in some areas during the early morning hours
on Monday and averaged $2,700 per MWh for about one hour.
Prices also briefly hit $1,000 on Sunday evening as cold
temperatures reached Houston and settled in.
The extreme winter weather has boosted power demand well
above ERCOT's winter forecast of less than 50,000 MW under
normal weather conditions.
ERCOT's winter peak remains 57,265 MW record set in February
2011 during a prolonged cold spell, according ERCOT spokeswoman
Preliminary data showing a slightly higher peak of 57,277 MW
on Jan. 7, has been revised downward to 57,256 MW, Searcy said,
still a peak for any January.
ERCOT's all-time peak use of 68,305 MW occurred in August
2011 during an extended heat wave and drought.
One megawatt can power about 500 homes during mild weather
conditions and about 200 homes during high-demand summer months,
Power producers in Texas include Luminant, a unit of
privately held Energy Future Holdings, NRG Energy
, Calpine Corp, NextEra Energy, Exelon
Corp, LS Power and Panda Power Partners.