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Texas’ Power Grid Could Be Pushed To The Brink Again This Summer, Utility Exec Says

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A power grid system serving nearly 30 million Americans could again approach failure this summer, a local utility executive told the San Antonio Express-News.

Rudy Garza, CEO of the San Antonio-owned utility company CPS Energy, anticipates that Texans will elevate power demand on the state’s grid system above and beyond last year’s record numbers, according to the Express-News. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the state’s power system manager, had to issue several energy rationing alerts last summer as the state’s grid nearly faltered, and those conservation appeals are likely to be made again over the course of this summer.

“I have learned in this business that it’s hard to make guarantees on anything,” Garza told the outlet. “If we lose a big nuclear unit, for instance, in the middle of a peak season, that could be enough to throw the grid off into some level of emergency. All we can do is prepare and keep our plants going.”

Garza predicts that Texans will exceed 100,000 megawatts of demand this summer, a level of power use which would be more than 15,000 megawatts greater than last summer’s record-setting demand, according to the Express-News. Major factors driving demand in Texas include a growing population, a hot economy, cryptocurrency mining operations and new power-hungry data centers.

“We’re building houses in every direction,” Garza told the Express-News. “We’ve seen an influx of some really large users coming into Texas, but they’re not driving the entirety of it. The state just continues to grow.

Texas produces the most energy from wind and solar of any state in the country, according to Texas Monthly. This leaves the ERCOT grid vulnerable to supply shortfalls in specific circumstances, especially the late afternoon and early evening hours of hot summer days with little or no wind blowing, according to the Express-News.

In those circumstances, power generation tails off right when Texans are driving up demand by cranking up their air conditioners and other appliances to stay cool in their homes, according to the Express-News. To make up for lost wind capacity in those situations, operators turn to older coal- and natural-gas fired generation facilities to avoid blackouts.

A similar situation played out in the summer of 2023, when a prolonged heat wave pushed the grid to the brink and prompted ERCOT — which oversees the flow of power to approximately 27 million customers — to briefly issue an emergency notice on Sept. 6, according to the Express-News. ERCOT put out a record of 11 conservation appeals last summer in total, and the North American Energy Reliability Corporation (NERC) — an organization that monitors grid conditions in the U.S. — flagged ERCOT in a recently-published outlook report for facing “elevated” blackout risks this summer if weather conditions are stronger than normal.

“ERCOT continues a reliability-first approach to grid operations and will continue to operate the grid conservatively, bringing generating resources online early to mitigate sudden changes in generation or demand,” an ERCOT spokesperson told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “The ERCOT region is forecasted to experience tremendous electric demand growth in the next 5-7 years, which is driving the need for ERCOT to adapt and plan differently for the future … ERCOT has implemented many reforms and grid improvements since 2021, including weatherization inspections of electric generation units and transmission facilities, and additional ancillary services.”

ERCOT is also deploying a number of measures to shore up grid reliability, including improvements to backup options and communications systems, the spokesperson added.

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