Power use broke records and the lights stayed on

San Antonio Express-News (Sunday) - - Busi­ness Sun­day -

con­serve en­ergy through­out the hottest part of the day, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., by do­ing things such as clos­ing drapes and blinds in rooms that get direct sun­light and grilling din­ner out­side in­stead of us­ing the oven.

In the Hous­ton area, sev­eral re­tail elec­tric­ity providers sent out email alerts ask­ing their cus­tomers to turn off pool pumps, turn up ther­mostats and re­frain from us­ing wash­ing ma­chines, dry­ers and dish­wash­ers dur­ing the late af­ter­noon hours when power use peaked — and whole­sale prices were at their high­est.

“It was pretty clear we were get­ting to the point we were strained,” said Ed Hirs, en­ergy econ­o­mist at the Uni­ver­sity of Hous­ton.

Power use hit 72,192 megawatts on July 18, sur­pass­ing the pre­vi­ous 2016 record. The fol­low­ing day Texas set an­other all-time, sys­temwide peak de­mand record, top­ping out at 73,259 megawatts be­tween 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. One megawatt can power about 200 homes dur­ing a hot sum­mer day in Texas.

NRG En­ergy said in­for­ma­tion about how its re­tail com­pa­nies sup­plied cus­tomers in July won’t be made pub­lic un­til the com­pany an­nounces its third quar­ter earn­ings in the fall. But NRG spokes­woman Pat Ham­mond said its re­quest to cus­tomers to con­serve power was made to pro­tect the in­tegrity of the power grid, know­ing how hot it would be and how much it would strain elec­tric­ity sup­plies.

DeAnn Walker, chair­man of the Pub­lic Util­ity Com­mis­sion, said her agency is al­ready ex­am­in­ing how ER­COT han­dled the hot weather de­mands this sum­mer.

“The sum­mer sea­son is half­way over,” Walker said in a state­ment, “but we an­tic­i­pate con­tin­ued re­li­a­bil­ity,”

One for­mer power trader said it ap­pears ER­COT en­cour­aged gen­er­a­tors to op­er­ate their plants at max­i­mum ca­pac­ity and sell the power on what’s known as the “day ahead mar­ket,” a fi­nan­cially-bind­ing for­ward en­ergy mar­ket where gen­er­a­tors agree to sell their power at a con­tracted price on the fol­low­ing day.

That caused day-ahead prices to rise, which in turn spurred gen­er­a­tors to pro­duce more elec­tric­ity, said Trent Crow, who left trad­ing to launch the elec­tric­ity shop­ping ser­vice Real Sim­ple En­ergy.

“At those prices every sin­gle power plant is mak­ing money,” said Crow, not­ing that the price per megawatt hour in the day ahead mar­ket hov­ered be­tween $1,400 and $2,000 dur­ing the hottest af­ter­noons last month, com­pared with typ­i­cal prices of $100 to $200.

Pho­tos by Melissa Phillip / Staff pho­tog­ra­pher

Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan, a three-decade vet­eran of the bank, took over as CEO in Oc­to­ber 2016.

Kin Man Hui / Staff file photo

The Elec­tric Re­li­a­bil­ity Coun­cil of Texas didn’t is­sue pleas to con­sumers and busi­nesses to con­serve power, but a num­ber of lo­cal util­i­ties did.

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