Shared from the 8/14/2019 San Antonio Express eEdition

Heat wave melts power usage record

With temps around 100, CPS Energy urges customers to conserve after mark shattered

With the temperature north of 100 degrees, so many CPS Energy customers turned down the thermostat that the city-owned utility broke its one-day power generation record on Monday.

The next day, the state power gird run by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which includes San Antonio, also may have hit an all-time high, said ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness in a statement.

Luckily, there was no talk of imminent blackouts or brownouts. Still, as temperatures continued to hover above 100 degrees, CPS Energy and ERCOT officials urged conservation. They asked customers to conserve power by turning the thermostat up 2 to 3 degrees during the peak hours of 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and limiting their use of large appliances — such as dishwashers and washers — to mornings or after 7 p.m.

The energy record shattered was only set last year — 5,080 megawatts on July 2, 2018 — when the temperature also hit above 100 degrees. Monday’s record was 5,109 megawatts of power.

One megawatt is enough energy to power about 200 homes for one hour during the hottest part of a Texas summer day.

Even with that number, the utility still had a reserve margin of 17.6 percent.

CPS customers aren’t completely out of the woods, however. As a member of the ERCOT grid, the utility could be required to contribute power to the grid to support energy needs in other cities even if it meant a mandatory power cut in San Antonio.

ERCOT statistics show overall the statewide system had only a 2.3 percent reserve margin on Monday.

Leslie Sopko, an ERCOT spokeswoman, did not respond to a phone call or an email seeking comment. The organization did email an emergency alert late Tuesday afternoon noting the limited power reserves but also noting there were “no rotating outages at this time.”

Given its reserve capacity, CPS Energy is also making money selling some of its excess available power into the ERCOT grid. The utility, however, declined to disclose how much of the reserve power it is selling and at what price.

“CPS Energy has the opportunity to sell excess power to the rest of the state, keeping our customers’ bills lower than they otherwise would have been,” utility spokesman Seamus Nelson said.

The utility may be making a big profit.

Wholesale electricity prices jumped 36,000 percent on Monday to an average of as much as $6,537.45 a megawatt-hour across the Texas power grid. It was a record that turned the Lone Star State into the most expensive place to buy power in all of the United States’ major markets.

Some power contracts traded on the Intercontinental Exchange also spiked, with one hub in Texas jumping to $675 a megawatt-hour, said David Hoy, a trader at Dynasty Power.

“This is blowing up,” Hoy said. “That should be the highest price of the year so far.”

CPS Energy and ERCOT officials also outlined other energy saving tips for customers as the heat wave continues.

• Use fans to feel 4 to 6 degrees cooler.

• Set pool pumps to run early morning or overnight; shutoff from 4:00-6:00 p.m.

•Turn off and unplug non-essential lights and appliances.

Bloomberg News contributed to this report. randy.diamond@

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