Scott Ball / Rivard Report
After cold weather led to historic demand for electricity across Texas early Wednesday, the CEO of San Antonio’s electricity and natural gas utility called for a greater focus on conserving power.
“Weather is predictable but not always predictable in the long-term, so this whole response of being able to conserve and get that message out is something that our entire state needs to be more robust on,” CPS Energy President and CEO Paula Gold-Williams said.
“If we don’t remind you about how important conservation is, we haven’t really used all our tools to help you help us.”
With freezing temperatures across much of Texas, electricity demand between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. Wednesday peaked across the state at 65,731 megawatts, above the previous record of 62,855 megawatts set on Jan. 3.
That's according to preliminary figures from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the state’s electrical grid operator. ERCOT coordinates the flow of electricity to 24 million customers in Texas, and its territory covers 90 percent of the state.
CPS’ demand between those hours peaked at 4,216 megawatts, which did not break its previous winter record set Jan. 3, senior corporate communications director Jonathan Tijerina said.
Late Tuesday, CPS asked its customers to take easy steps to reduce their electricity consumption to help avoid mandatory power outages from ERCOT. CPS officials stressed that at no point was ERCOT actually calling for mandatory outages, also known as rolling blackouts.
Texas last saw rolling blackouts in February 2011, when cold weather led to high electricity demand and some coal and gas plants were offline.
Gold-Williams said CPS was not able to quantify exactly how much demand was reduced by its efforts to ask customers to cut back, "but we know that we did not see as tremendous demand as if everyone came in at 8 o'clock and there weren't staggered times."
Late Tuesday, ERCOT also put out a forecast for record use and suggested its customers cut back, but it never issued a formal call for conservation.
In an interview, ERCOT spokeswoman Leslie Sopko confirmed that the recent closing of Dallas-based Luminant’s Monticello coal plant did affect how much capacity was available Wednesday morning, although ERCOT was still able to supply enough power for the state.
The three-unit plant in Titus County in northeast Texas with 1,880 megawatts of generating capacity closed on Jan. 4, Luminant spokeswoman Meranda Cohn said.
“Almost all available generating capacity was online this morning, so it is likely they would have been running as well, resulting in additional online capacity,” Sopko said in an email.
About 7.8 percent of the grid’s capacity between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m., a little more than 5,100 megawatts, came from wind power, Sopko said.