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During Arctic Blast, Texans' Electricity Usage Sets Winter Record


Demand for electricity in Texas this morning set a new winter record.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas reports peak use at 57,277 megawatts in the hour ending at 8 a.m. The previous winter record was 57,265 megawatts in February 2011.

Peak demand in winter weather typically occurs between 6 and 9 a.m. and 4 and 8 p.m.

ERCOT, the operator of the electric transmission grid for much of Texas, says there was sufficient generation available Monday evening and Tuesday morning to serve customers’ needs.

But ERCOT had warned Monday morning of potential rolling blackouts. On Monday morning, Texans consumed 55,487 megawatts – that was just about 2,000 megawatts away from capacity.

The bitter cold caused electricity demand to surge Monday. At the same time, the temperatures caused problems with two large generation units in north central Texas. Some of the instruments used to control the units froze. ERCOT won’t say where these units are located.

ERCOT has discontinued a conservation alert it issued Monday, encouraging Texans to conserve energy to help avoid rolling blackouts.

ERCOT says the all-time record was set on Aug. 3, 2011, when demand peaked at 68,305 megawatts.

One megawatt is enough power to serve about 500 homes during mild weather, and 200 homes during summer peak periods, which typically are about 10,000 megawatts higher than winter peaks.

Eric Aasen is KERA’s managing editor. He helps lead the station's news department, including radio and digital reporters, producers and newscasters. He also oversees, the station’s news website, and manages the station's digital news projects. He reports and writes stories for the website and contributes pieces to KERA radio. He's discussed breaking news live on various public radio programs, including The Takeaway, Here & Now and Texas Standard, as well as radio and TV programs in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.