Bitter Cold Hits Texas Power Grid Hard

Oncor urges customers to turn down thermostat to conserve energy

Friday, Jan 8, 2010  |  Updated 7:25 PM CDT
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Temperatures Drop, Electric Use Rises

AP

Cold weather has set a record for winter power usage.

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Temperatures Drop, Electric Use Rises

The cold weather has people across North Texas cranking up the heat and setting new electric usage records.
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The bitter cold that has most of Texas in its grip has generated two winter peak demand records in as many days on the state's biggest electrical grid.

Power providers say that setting your thermostat high could put a chill on your finances when the bill arrives next month.

"They may be surprised, just because they haven't experienced this type of cold here in Texas, so they may be a little bit surprised," said Jeamy Molina, Oncor Electric Delivery spokeswoman.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas operates a grid that covers most of the state. An ERCOT statement said peak demand reached a new winter record of 55,856 megawatts during the 7 to 8 a.m. period Friday.

That broke the day-old record 52,001 megawatts set during the 7 to 8 a.m. period Thursday. Kent Saathoff, vice president of system planning and operations, said, "The ERCOT grid has not experienced any major operational issues during this severe weather event."

One megawatt usually powers about 500 average-size homes under average conditions.

Oncor is urging customers to conserve energy.

"Try to keep your thermostat at 68 degrees," Molina said. "I know that's kind of iffy, but it's going to help you out in the long run to hopefully help your usage come down and help you become more energy efficient in your homes.

ERCOT's summer peak demand record is 63,400 megawatts set last July 13.

NBCDFW's Randy McIlwain contributed to this report.

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