Texas Grid Survives Heat, but Could Use More Energy Efficiency and Demand Response
This month Texans have been at the mercy of some extreme, shoe-melting heat. Yet, despite the heat wave and resulting high demand in electricity, the state’s main grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), has barely broken a sweat. Demand even passed the previous record-high mark twice in one afternoon, but ERCOT has not called for a single system emergency.
How is ERCOT able to handle this massive stress on the grid, even as Texas’ population continues to rise at an impressive rate? Although some new generation has come online to meet increased electricity needs in the state, two key resources are working “behind the grid” to lower demand. Energy efficiency and demand response, a way to incentivize people to conserve energy when the electric grid is stressed, are both essential tools in preventing blackouts during the hottest months of the year, while maintaining Texas’ commitment to a clean energy future.
The good news is, Texas has significant potential to grow these resources, and two utilities are already showing how the state can better harness both energy efficiency and demand response.
The cheapest energy is the kind we don’t use in the first place
To put it plainly: Saving energy is more affordable than building additional power plants.
For example, researchers at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory concluded the average cost of energy saved by energy efficiency measures is 4.4 cents per kilowatt hour (KWh), compared to the 9.5 cents per KWh for the cost of electricity generated by coal. The total cost of saved energy is not only less than half that of dirty coal, but it eliminates the need for cooling water, which is required to cool the steam produced by power plants. This is an additional cost that is not often factored in.