After six power plants in Texas unexpectedly failed on Friday, causing a loss of about 2,900 megawatts of electricity—enough to power 580,000 homes—the state’s main grid operator is asking residents to conserve energy as they head into another weekend of record-high temperatures.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) wants residents to lower thermostats to 78°F (25.5°C) or higher on weekend afternoons, and to avoid using larger appliances, reports The Independent, as forecasters expect an “expansive early-season heat wave” next weekend. The Dallas-Fort Worth area was expected to see record high temperatures of up to 36°C last Saturday and above 37.7°C Sunday.
“With unseasonably hot weather driving record demand across Texas, ERCOT continues to work closely with the power industry to make sure Texans have the power they need,” the council said in a statement on May 13.
Though ERCOT’s dashboard says “there is enough power for current demand,” operators usually ask the public to limit power use when the grid falls below a safe margin of excess supply to avoid blackouts, The Independent explains.
Texas energy regulators are still under the shadow of the February 2021 grid failure amidst a sudden deep freeze that led to an official death toll of at least 246 people (though Buzzfeed estimates that roughly 454 deaths linked to the power outage were not included in the state’s count). Texans were left for days without power during that time, and ERCOT officials later admitted the state had been “seconds and minutes away” from a months-long power failure.
Though it was a higher-than-usual demand for home heating that brought on the 2021 blackout, the widespread use of cooling appliances places a similar strain on the grid. Texas has appointed new regulators and modified legislation since the deep freeze, and Governor Greg Abbott has claimed that “everything that needed to be done was done to fix the power grid in Texas.” But while Abbott guaranteed that “the lights will stay on” during future extreme weather events, experts have criticized the reforms as “woefully inadequate.”
The deep freeze power outages can also be linked to a series of 1999 reforms that deregulated and privatized the state’s energy system, writes The Independent.