Monday, August 13, 2012
Officials urge Texas consumers to lessen energy usage
Rolling blackouts may become necessary.
With the summer heat wave in full force, demand on the state's electrical grid is approaching record levels.
The organization that operates the state's power grid, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, is urging all Texas residents to conserve power. While the grid is not in immediate danger of failure, if enough electricity is not saved voluntarily then rolling blackouts may become a necessity. ERCOT's Robbie Searcy said this option has never been necessary during the summer.
"Last summer was the hottest summer on record and the good news is that we didn't need to use rolling blackouts," Searcy said. "We credit a lot of that to regular consumers who were called to conserve during the peak demand hours."
Peak demand records were broken during both June and July, Searcy said. The latest record came on July 31, when 65,790 megawatts of electricity was used. One megawatt of electricity will power about 20 homes during the summer in Texas. The all-time record for peak energy usage occurred August 3 last year, when 68,379 megawatts were used.
Even with the record high temperatures recorded last week, Searcy said the grid has not been threatened.
"We expect to be able to get through this summer and have sufficient generation to avoid any grid problems," Searcy said. "But on weeks when we see extreme temperatures, there is the possibility we could enter an energy emergency alert situation where we could call for conservation like we did last year."
When a Level 1 emergency is declared, as it was seven times in 2011, a plea is put out by ERCOT for all consumers to conserve as much electricity as possible. If this is not sufficient, a Level 2 emergency is declared and large-scale electrical users who have partnered with ERCOT are asked to cut back on usage, an option that was exercised twice last year. If Level 3 is required, rolling blackouts are implemented.
To prevent energy emergencies from occurring, Searcy said some simple measures can be implemented to cut back on everyday electrical usage.
"There are three key things that people can do to make the most difference," Searcy said. "The biggest thing people can do is turn their thermostat up 2 to 3 degrees if they are able to. People can also avoid using large appliances during the peak hours of 3 to 7 p.m., as well as operating their swimming pool pumps late at night or early in the morning rather than during the middle of the day."
To save energy, many local cities have implemented energy management plans. In the past six years, Lewisville has begun a lighting retrofit program in all city buildings that replace older inefficient light bulbs with updated efficient ones. This project included traffic signals also.
In addition, most buildings have automatic lights that turn off when not in use.
"Using automatic lights has resulted in savings for the city," said James Kunke, community relations and tourism director. "In addition, most temperatures are computer controlled in our buildings."
Kunke said Lewisville also replaced large pumps and motors at water and wastewater facilities with premium efficiency motors as they failed or when new ones were purchased. Energy management systems were also added to City Hall and the annex to regulate HVAC and lighting when buildings are unoccupied. The systems automatically turns off when the building is not in use. He said new buildings will have this also.
Kunke said Lewisville is also upgrading Christmas lights to LED as they are replaced. In addition to this the city has reduced the amount of time Christmas lighting is on -- lights are no longer on all night.
"In addition, the proposed 2012-13 budget includes a request to purchase two solar-powered street lights for review and testing," Kunke said. "If the equipment is affordable enough the city will begin to use them."
For information on the current energy demand on ERCOT's electrical grid, which encompasses 85 percent of the state's electrical load, visit www.ercot.com.
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