Texas power demand to break May record in heat wave on Friday

By Thomson Reuters May 23, 2024 | 8:44 AM

By Scott DiSavino

(Reuters) – Power use in Texas was on track to break the record for the month of May for a second time this week on Friday and could top that again over the Memorial Day weekend as homes and businesses crank up their air conditioners to escape a heat wave.

Extreme weather in Texas is a reminder of the February freeze in 2021 that left millions without power, water and heat for days and resulted in over 200 deaths as the state’s grid operator scrambled to prevent the power system from collapsing.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which operates most of the state’s power grid for 27 million customers, said the system was currently operating normally with enough supply available to meet expected demand all week.

ERCOT projected power demand would peak at 75,296 megawatts (MW) on May 24 and 75,952 MW on May 26, which would top the current record for the month of May of 72,261 MW on May 20.

The grid’s all-time peak was 85,508 MW on Aug. 10, 2023.

Analysts expect ERCOT electric use will top that all-time high this summer with economic and population growth in Texas and demand for power from data centers, artificial intelligence (AI) and cryptocurrency mining rising fast.

One megawatt can usually power about 800 homes on a normal day but as few as 250 on a hot summer day in Texas.

High temperatures in Houston, the biggest city in Texas, were forecast to rise from 92 degrees Fahrenheit (33.3 Celsius) on Thursday to 99 F on May 27, according to meteorologists at AccuWeather.

The normal high in Houston at this time of year is 88 F.

Over the next week, ERCOT projected supplies would exceed demand by as much as 42,500 MW during the morning of May 26 when the sun starts to energize solar panels and by as little as 6,600 MW in the evening of May 24 after the sun goes down and solar panels stop working.

That comfortable level of supply assumes nothing changes. But, things always change — power plants and transmission lines shut and return to service, weather forecasts change and storms cause outages.

ERCOT, for example said it experienced the “sudden loss of generation” totaling 1,438 MW on May 22. That reduced supplies.

There were, however, over 110,000 homes and businesses without power Thursday morning due to storms overnight. Those new outages reduced power demand and came after Texas utilities restored service to most customers knocked out in severe storms last week.

(Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)