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Texas Heatwave Pushes Power Grid to Brink of Outages Since 2021 Winter Storm

HOUSTON — Texas’ power grid manager on Thursday once again urged residents to reduce their electricity usage as the state faces another period of scorching summer heat. This appeal comes following a close call with power outages, the first since the deadly winter blackout in 2021.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which serves the majority of the state’s 30 million residents, made the request after low energy reserves triggered a level 2 energy emergency alert. The surge in demand due to the heat, along with inadequate power from renewable sources such as wind and solar energy, led to dwindling operating reserves, according to ERCOT.

This marked the first time since the devastating 2021 ice storm that the council declared an emergency operation. The ice storm left millions without power for days and resulted in numerous fatalities.

ERCOT reported that the emergency status lasted for about an hour on Wednesday night until grid conditions returned to normal.

On Thursday, ERCOT called on residents to conserve power from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. CDT, as reserves were expected to once again be low. Heat advisories covered large parts of Texas, with temperatures soaring above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 Celsius) in cities like Austin, Amarillo, Dallas, and El Paso.

“We request Texas businesses & residents to conserve electricity use, if safe to do so,” tweeted ERCOT.

Texas’ Republican Governor, Greg Abbott, has asserted that improvements have been made to stabilize the grid since the 2021 winter storm. Earlier this year, Texas lawmakers passed bills to incentivize the generation of more “on-demand” electricity, but these measures did not extend to renewable sources.

However, many Texans remain skeptical about the reliability of the grid.

In June, just before the onset of this summer’s heat, Governor Abbott vetoed a bill aimed at enhancing energy efficiency in new construction, stating that it wasn’t as critical as reducing property taxes.

Texas is not connected to the rest of the country’s power grid, unlike other states in the U.S., leaving limited options for importing electricity during shortages or failures.

Regulators had already warned in May that demand could potentially surpass supply on the hottest days.

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