Texas power demand expected to hit record high during heat wave

(Reuters) - The Texas power grid operator forecast electric demand would reach a record high on Friday as homes and businesses crank up their air conditioners to escape a heat wave blanketing much of the western half of the country.

That caused power prices in Texas, California and Arizona to jump to their highest in years as utilities turned on most available generating facilities to keep up with soaring demand.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which operates the grid for much of the state, forecast demand would peak at 75,309 megawatts (MW) on Friday. That would top the current all-time high of 74,820 MW set on Aug. 12, 2019.

ERCOT expects that record even though commercial and industrial demand is down as government lockdowns to stop the spread of coronavirus have closed numerous offices and left factories running at reduced capacity.

The California ISO, which operates the grid in that state, urged consumers to conserve energy on Friday to help maintain reliability of the system.

The ISO forecast demand would reach 46,389 MW on Friday, which would top 2019’s high but fall well short of the all-time high of 50,270 MW in 2006.

Temperatures are expected to reach 115 degrees F in Phoenix, 100 in Houston and the upper 90s in Los Angeles and San Jose over the next few days, according to AccuWeather.

Next-day power prices at the Ercot North hub in Texas jumped to $336.50 per megawatt hour (MWh) for Friday, their highest since hitting a record high of $973.75 in September 2019.

Power prices at the Palo Verde hub in Arizona and SP-15 in Southern California rose to $217.50 and $218.50 per MWh, respectively, their highest since August 2018.

Gas prices for Friday at the Waha hub in West Texas, meanwhile, jumped to their highest since December 2019.

Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Richard Chang