Texas sets new records for July electricity usage, and summer is only getting started

By: Jeff Mosier |

Texas electric grid operator planned for a challenging summer. Now, it’s here with back-to-back electricity usage records.

Electric Reliability Council of Texas announced yesterday that usage averaged 70,963 megawatt between 4 and 5 p.m. That was the most ever for a single hour in July. The previous record? Just the day before that, at 70,587 megawatts.

One megawatt is the amount needed to power about 200 Texas homes on a hot day, according to ERCOT.

Yesterday’s high temperature of 104 was eight degrees above the typical high for that day and the hottest so far this year, according to the National Weather Service.

While air conditioners struggled to keep homes and workplaces cool, the state’s electric grid was holding steady. Oncor, which operates power lines for most of North Texas, reported only small, routine outages on its website.

ERCOT, which predicted a record-breaking summer, has been watching the weather and power generators carefully. The gap between generation capacity and projected demand this year is the narrowest in 11 years, partly due to the closing of three large coal-fired power plants early this year.

Combined, those plants had enough capacity to power nearly 2.1 million homes.

With that smaller margin between supply and expected demand, ERCOT executive Dan Woodfin said in April that rotating outages, better known as rolling blackouts, were a possibility. That would happen only if other emergency measures, including importing electricity from other states, weren’t enough.

Despite the warnings, ERCOT officials have said they expected to have enough electricity generation to meet demand.

The last time rolling blackouts were needed was February 2011, the week of Super Bowl XLV in Arlington. Sustained freezing temperatures and ice and snow storms taxed Texas’ electricity infrastructure that week. Equipment at new coal-fired power plants stopped working because of the cold. And some natural gas pipelines lost pressure, which affected gas-fired plants.

This summer, there hasn’t been notable problems like that. And although  temperatures have started hitting 100 with regularity, the heat hasn’t approached any records.

But there is plenty of hot weather left and more electricity usage records are likely to fall. ERCOT is projecting a summer peak of 72,756, which assumes normal weather. That would be about 1,600 megawatts higher than the previous record set in August 2016.

The National Weather Service, however, is expecting above normal temperatures for this summer.

Texas sets new records for July electricity usage, and summer is only getting started