By Scott DiSavino
(Reuters) – Power demand in Texas and other U.S. central states were on track to break records this week, with one region already posting a new high, as homes and businesses crank up their air conditioners to escape another brutal heat wave moving slowly across the country.
Rising economic and population growth has boosted electricity use in Sun Belt states like Texas and is expected to drive overall U.S. power demand to record highs in 2024 and beyond.
The Southwest Power Pool (SPP), which oversees the grid in parts of 15 states from North Dakota to New Mexico, said it set an all-time high on Monday. Other regions were predicted to set records as well.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which operates the grid for more than 26 million customers representing about 90% of the state’s power load, said it has enough resources to meet soaring demand.
Texas residents have worried about extreme weather since a deadly storm in February 2021 left millions without power, water and heat for days as ERCOT struggled to prevent a grid collapse.
AccuWeather meteorologists forecast temperatures in Houston, the biggest city in Texas, would reach at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees Celsius) most days through Aug. 31. That compares with a normal high of 95 F for this time of year.
ERCOT forecast demand would reach 85,605 megawatts (MW) on Monday, which would be the grid’s 11th all-time high so far this summer and top its current record of 85,435 MW set on Aug. 10.
Even over the weekend – when demand usually declines as many businesses shut – electricity use in ERCOT hit a preliminary estimate of 85,116 MW on Sunday, breaking the prior weekend record of 84,805 MW on Saturday.
One megawatt can power around 1,000 U.S. homes on a typical day but only about 200 homes on a hot summer day in Texas.
Despite this week’s forecast, next-day prices at the ERCOT North Hub, which includes Dallas, fell to a one-week low of $208 per megawatt hour for Monday, down from $343 for Friday. That compares with an average of $68 so far this year and a five-year (2018-2022) average of $66.
HEAT MOVES TO MIDWEST
Power demand was also expected to break records in the U.S. central grids operated by the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) and SPP.
MISO, which oversees the power system in parts of 15 U.S. states from Minnesota to Louisiana, projected that usage would reach 127,459 MW on Wednesday and 129,923 MW on Thursday. That would top MISO’s current record of 127,100 MW set in July 2011, according to the grid’s website.
SPP said usage already hit 54,503 MW on Monday and projected it to reach 56,393 MW later in the day, topping the grid’s prior high of 53,243 MW in July 2022.
“SPP expects to have enough generating capacity to meet the demand, and while our assessments don’t raise reliability concerns, we have tools and procedures ready to make changes as necessary to responsibly and economically keep the lights on,” SPP spokesperson Meghan Sever said in an email.
(Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Andy Sullivan)