The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is the agency responsible for managing the delivery of electricity to most homes and businesses in Texas. Among other things, its is responsible for alerting customers in its service area of potential outages due to heavy demand for electricity. Most Texans are in ERCOT's service area, which is the largest in Texas and serves 23 million customers that represent 85 percent of the state’s electric load and 75 percent of the state’s land area.
When an issue with electricity supply occurs, the first stage in ERCOT’s three-stage emergency power management plan is to alert electric customers in its service area of the issue. Thanks in part to a surge in air conditioning use from high temperatures as well as unexpected generation outages, an alert was issued on June 14. Another alert was sent out yesterday when it asked consumers and businesses to reduce their electricity consumption due to heavy pressure on the electrical grid. And we've gotten word that ERCOT is asking again for increased conservation later today from 3:00 - 7:00 P.M. CST.
In these cases, to help manage the electricity supply and prevent rolling brownouts or other service interruptions, ERCOT offers a series of temporary energy conservation tips provided by the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) that electric customers should try to observe during the alert period.
Here are the PUCT’s energy conservation tips in case of a summertime energy alert:
- Turn off all lights, appliances and electronic equipment that aren’t necessary.
- When at home, set thermostats to 78 degrees or higher, close blinds and drapes and use fans to cool the air.
- When away from home, set thermostats to 85 degrees, close blinds and drapes and make sure all fans are turned off.
- During the specified timeframe — which is frequently the peak energy use period between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. — do not use dishwashers, laundry appliances, hair dryers, coffee makers or other home appliances.
- Although refrigerators and freezers should be kept on, you should open avoid opening their doors as much as possible.
- Food should be cooked with microwaves instead of electric ranges or ovens.
- Pool pumps should always be set to run in the early morning or late evening instead of during peak times. Make sure to change pool settings if needed.
Additional Energy Tips and Advice from the PUCT
On its website, the PUCT encourages electric customers to not wait for an energy alert before making energy efficiency changes to their homes or changing the way they use electricity. The PUCT suggests that electric customers research no-cost or low-cost ways to save electricity.
Furthermore, the PUCT also encourages electric customers to see if they can save money off monthly electric bills by switching from their current electricity provider to a different electric provider.
The PUCT also reminds consumers who are thinking of switching that their choice of electric supplier has no effect on the reliability of electric service, the frequency or duration of power outages or the time it will take electric service to be restored in an outage.
"Power Watch: Energy Conservation Encouraged 3–7 p.m. Today," Electric Reliability Council of Texas press release, July 14, 2011.
Public Utility Commission of Texas website, “Conservation Alerts.”