June 22, 2012 / 12:05 AM / 7 years ago

Texas prepares for soaring power demand next week

HOUSTON (Reuters) - As a heat wave dissipates in the U.S. Northeast, the Texas electric grid is projecting record June demand next week as temperatures are forecast to climb to the upper 90s and low 100s Fahrenheit (37 Celsius) across the state.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) said peak-hour power consumption could exceed 66,000 megawatts Monday afternoon, surpassing the monthly records for June of last year and straining the state’s electric resources.

Demand could remain at near-record levels through mid-week, depending on whether a storm brewing in the Gulf of Mexico develops over the weekend.

“With temperatures expected to hit triple digits several days next week, ERCOT is looking closely at anticipated load and available electric generation,” said spokeswoman Robbie Searcy.

ERCOT said it expects to have adequate generation and surplus available to serve the state without imposing emergency programs that could lead to curtailment of power to certain industrial customers or broader rolling outages.

“This takes into account current outages and the possibility of losing additional resources in the first heat wave of summer,” Searcy said.

ERCOT, which oversees the grid for most of the state, has warned that rolling outages could occur this summer given the state’s limited amount of surplus generation.

An extended heat wave and drought last summer forced ERCOT to declare emergencies on six days and curtail power to interruptible customers on two days in August to avoid widespread rolling outages.

The state’s shrinking reserve margin has led regulators to implement a number of wholesale market changes to encourage construction of new power plants.

Several idled power plants have been returned to service to bolster the summer supply this year after a new coal-fired plant expected to be operational was delayed.

In May, Texas set a monthly power demand record of 59,037 megawatts, surpassing the previous high set in May 2011 by 2.9 percent, according to initial ERCOT data.

In 2011, power use in ERCOT rose 5 percent from 2010 as the state experienced extremely cold weather in February, which forced ERCOT to implement rolling outages, and the hottest summer on record.

ERCOT’s all-time peak of 68,379 MW was set August 3, 2011.

Reporting By Eileen O'Grady in Houston; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer

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