(Corrects year in second paragraph to 2006 from 2000)
* Second monthly electric use record set this year
* Year-to-date power use runs slightly ahead of 2012
By Eileen O’Grady
HOUSTON, Nov 26 (Reuters) - Cold temperatures across Texas have pushed November power use to the highest level in seven years, according to preliminary data from the state’s power grid operator.
Power demand reached 46,931 megawatts in the hour ending at 7 p.m. CDT (0100 GMT) on Monday, surpassing the November 2006 record of 45,143 MW, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) website.
Over the weekend, a winter storm marching southward into Texas pared more than 20 degrees from normal high temperatures in Houston, Texas’ largest city.
Monday’s high temperature in Houston was 46 degrees Fahrenheit (8 degrees Celsius), 23 degrees below normal while the low of 39 was 12 degrees below normal, according to AccuWeather.com.
In North Texas, Dallas’ high on Monday was 38 degrees, 25 degrees cooler than normal. The city’s low was 33, 11 degrees below normal, AccuWeather.com said.
Real-time power prices in the state indicated ample power supplies were available Monday as prices did not rise above $45 per megawatt-hour. Daily power prices traded in the low $40s per MWh, about 30 percent above the region’s five-year average, according to Reuters data.
Power use is expected to fall the rest of the week, according to ERCOT forecasts, as temperatures rise.
Texas has avoided extreme weather most of the year, but ERCOT set a monthly demand record in October of 54,710 MW, surpassing the 54,102 MW record set in 2002, according to ERCOT’s website.
Electricity use in Texas has been growing faster than generation is being built, shrinking the region’s reserve margin and increasing the prospect of rolling outages when supplies are stretched, the grid operator has warned.
Regulators and the grid agency have made several changes to the wholesale market to attract new power plants, but market participants remain divided on a long-term solution.
ERCOT expects to have sufficient power supplies for the upcoming winter season when demand is forecast to remain just below 50,000 MW under normal weather conditions.
Through the end of October, power consumption in ERCOT is running 0.6 percent ahead of 2012, according to grid reports.
Electric use in ERCOT in 2012 was 2.7 percent below 2011, a record year for power consumption that began with frigid winter weather and the hottest summer on record.
ERCOT’s winter consumption record is 57,265 MW set Feb. 10, 2011 during an extreme statewide cold spell. The state’s all-time peak use of 68,379 MW occurred in August of the same year during a prolonged heat wave and drought.
One megawatt can power about 500 homes during mild weather conditions and about 200 homes during high-demand summer months, ERCOT said.
Power producers in Texas include Luminant, a unit of privately held Energy Future Holdings, NRG Energy , Calpine Corp, NextEra Energy and Exelon Corp. (Editing by Diane Craft)