News from around the state of Texas

Texas Has Barely Enough Electricity for Summer

Unexpected drop in power generation could result in blackouts

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The president of the Texas electric grid is warning lawmakers that rolling blackouts are possible this summer. (Published Tuesday, Jul 10, 2012)

    The president of the Texas electric grid says the state barely has enough electric supply to meet demand this summer.

    Trip Doggett told lawmakers Tuesday morning that any unexpected drop in generation or spike in demand could lead to rolling blackouts.

    ERCOT is responsible for managing the state's electric grid, while private companies generate the electricity.

    Many of those companies have complained in recent years that Texans don't pay enough for electricity for them to invest in new generation plants. Last month the Public Utility Commission raised rates to encourage more electricity generation.

    Bernard Weinstein, professor at SMU’s Cox School of Business, agrees and said the state needs to find ways to make it more lucrative for new power generation plants to be built. He added that energy prices in Texas are, on average, lower than in other parts of the country.

    “If we want more power plants in our state, we need to pay for it,” said Weinstein.

    He said one solution is charging a capacity fee, basically some sort of usage fee. He said that would make it more lucrative for plant owners, and give them reason to build here.

    “The system will be strained, unless we cut back on current use by turning up our thermostat we will see rolling blackouts and brownouts,” Weinstein said.

    For local businesses, a loss of power could mean a loss of profit.

    Kathy Oszutowicz, owner of a local shop which specializes in homemade cookies and ice cream said there isn’t much she can do if the power is out for an extended period of time.

    “We have to keep our freezers closed, hopefully the power will come back between 2-3 hours. If power stays off longer than 2-3 hours, ice cream becomes compromised and lose most of it,” Oszutowicz said. “We lose product, which is money, which is not good for us.”

    Doggett said that electric supply will be tight this summer and warned the agency would likely declare Energy Emergency Alerts asking consumers to cut back on electricity use. Blackouts would only be used if a plant shutdown unexpectedly.