Austin’s demand for electricity set new winter record, Austin Energy says

4:45 p.m. update: As subfreezing temperatures gripped Central Texas, Austin Energy customers consumed more electricity on Wednesday than on any other winter day, the utility said.

Customer demand reached a record winter peak load of 2,377 megawatts of power, or about 28 percent more than was used on the Friday before the storm hit, city officials said in a statement Wednesday. 

“The utility’s power plants performed reliably through the winter weather event,” the statement said. “Only a few customer outages occurred.”

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the state’s power grid for 24 million customers, including Austin Energy customers, also saw winter demand peak at a seasonal record 65,731 megawatts Wednesday morning.

Austin Energy set its previous winter peak of 2,195 megawatts on Feb. 2, 2011, during another extreme winter storm. 

Austin Energy is the city’s electric utility and serves more than 475,000 customers, which includes more than 1 million residents in Greater Austin.

8:40 a.m. update: More than 24 hours of below-freezing temperatures across much of Texas resulted in a new record for winter electricity demand, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

Officials with ERCOT said a new record was set between 7 and 8 a.m., as Texans required 65,731 megawatts of power. The previous record, set during a cold snap earlier this month, was 62,855 megawatts.

“During this week’s winter weather event, ERCOT had sufficient generation and transmission resources available to keep up with demand,” the agency said. “As always, ERCOT closely monitors system conditions and coordinates with generators and transmission operators to help ensure grid reliability.”

ERCOT spokeswoman Leslie Sopko said on Tuesday that conditions on Wednesday were likely to result in a new record.

Authorities urged customers across the state to take steps to save electricity, including unplugging small appliances, closing blinds overnight and holding off on using large appliances.

Earlier: The Electric Reliability Council of Texas urged Central Texas households and businesses to conserve energy on Wednesday because frigid temperatures have put an additional strain on the state’s power grid.

ERCOT officials said they expect a significantly high load of electricity demand, particularly between the hours of 7 and 8 a.m.

Plummeting temperatures on Tuesday morning weren’t enough to break a winter peak demand record set in early January, but ERCOT spokeswoman Leslie Sopko said the record could be knocked out on Wednesday.

The current record was recorded between the hours on 7 and 8 a.m. on Jan. 3 at 62,855 megawatts, more than 3,200 megawatts more than the previous record of 59,650.

Although ERCOT maintains that the grid can handle the rise in demand, officials urged consumers to take the following steps to save energy:

  • Keep thermostats as low as possible, preferably no higher than 68 degrees.
  • Turn off and unplug nonessential appliances.
  • Avoid using large appliances like washers, dryers and electric ovens.
  • Close shades and blinds at night, and open them during the day.
  • Business should limit their use of electric lighting and electric equipment.
  • Large electricity consumers should shut down or reduce nonessential production

Learn more about energy conservation at ERCOT’s website.

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