Texas grid survives energy demand, but concerns remain over ERCOT’s summer preparedness

More record heat translated to more record energy demand Monday leading ERCOT to call on Texans to conserve energy during the hottest part of the day. Thankfully, power supply was able to keep up, meaning no rolling blackouts.

"One of the reasons is it looks like demand is not coming in quite as high as was expected," said Austin-based energy expert Doug Lewin, president of Stoic Energy.

Still, the grid did set a new demand record around 4 p.m. Monday, more than 78,000 megawatts, narrowly exceeding the previous record which just was set on Friday.

"People are paying a lot more attention to this since Winter Storm Uri. Obviously, we all are. But, you know, it's not unusual for it to be a little tight in the summer, for us to have a lot of people using a lot of energy and for the conditions to be tight," said Jennifer Herber, spokesperson for Austin Energy.

Those conditions led ERCOT to raise its alert status to yellow Monday afternoon. If it reaches red, that means residents should prepare for outages. Black means ERCOT has instructed local utilities to begin controlled outages.

"I am very concerned about August. I mean, we typically have hotter days in August than we do in July. And I just don't think the PUC and ERCOT have done what they need to do to be ready for this," said Lewin.

For its part, Austin Energy says it is prepared for the worst.

"If that were to happen, Austin Energy and all the electricity providers that are part of the grid would have to do our part to cut power to some of our customers," said Herber. "The outages would be much shorter in duration and hopefully we can rotate them among our customers."

So, what got us here? Lewin says two big reasons are population growth and climate change.


"The lack of planning for climate change, the lack of baking that into their models is really a big part of the story and a part of the problem here," said Lewin.

He’s urging state energy officials to focus more on incentivizing energy efficiency going forward, rather than just conservation.

"Austin does a good job with energy efficiency. But as a state, we are dead last among the 30 or so states that have an energy efficiency goal," said Lewin. "And we've got a reliability crisis. Clearly, we're experiencing that today. We also have an affordability crisis and energy efficiency would be a way to help people with that aspect of things as well."

There were some localized outages in parts of Central Texas Monday, including in Central and East Austin. Those were caused by equipment issues, according to Austin Energy. 

The Public Utility Commission of Texas says none of the outages were due to a lack of reserves.