The electric reliability council of Texas is expecting record electricity demand and historically low electricity reserve margins this summer. With demand up and supply down, there’s a risk of rolling blackouts this year.
Total electricity generation capacity in Texas is expected to be 78,154 megawatts this summer. Meanwhile, ERCOT forecasts that peak electricity demand will reach 74,853 MW. That’s a difference of just 3,301 MW of electricity—a tight reserve margin.
Reserve margin is the extra power available to the grid, beyond that required by the projected demand. It exists to absorb a sudden spike in electricity demand or an unexpected loss of generation capacity. ERCOT’s reserve margin target is 13.75%, but it is expecting an actual reserve margin of just 8.4% this summer.
The low reserve margin means there is a risk of rolling blackouts. If electricity demand is higher than expected, or something breaks at a power plant, there may not be enough power to go around. If that’s the case, ERCOT may require rotating outages to prevent a statewide power outage.
What Are Rotating Outages?
Rotating outages or rolling blackouts are controlled, temporary disruptions in electricity service that rotate by location to help reduce the load on the electric grid. Typically, these disruptions last 10–45 minutes before being rotated to another location.
Rotating outages are rare and only used as a last resort to prevent the risk of a statewide blackout, a much larger and longer outage. In its history, ERCOT has initiated systemwide rotating outages just three times: December 22, 1989, April 17, 2006, and February 2, 2011.
If ERCOT issues an emergency alert to utilities to conduct rotating outages this summer, Magic Valley Electric Cooperative is required to comply. Should that happen, we would systematically rotate outages throughout our system to reduce demand on the state’s electric grid.
Rush Hour Rewards
You have some control over what happens to the electric grid this summer. To help combat peak demand in summer months, June – September, Magic Valley offers a demand response program known as the Rush Hour Rewards program. Members who sign up for this program play a significant role in the operation of the electric grid by helping us reduce and shift their usage during peak periods. If you are interested in learning more about this program, you can visit magicvalley.coop/rush-hour-rewards.
You can also help lower the risk of rotating outages by conserving energy during peak hours, usually from 3 to 7 p.m., each day this summer.
Here are just a few tips to help you save energy:
- Turn your thermostat up 2–3 degrees during peak hours.
- Only run major appliances, such as your dishwasher, oven, washer or dryer, early in the morning or late in the evening.
- Keep windows and doors closed and use blinds and drapes to block your home from the sun’s heat.
- Unplug nonessential electronics and appliances.