Updated with ERCOT warning for Thursday, September 7. 

While Texans continue struggling in a record-breaking heat wave, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas warned citizens that the power grid has moved into “Emergency Operations.”

On Wednesday, September 6, ERCOT asked Texans to conserve electricity, claiming the power grid’s operating reserves were expected to be low due to “continued high temperatures, high demand, low wind, and declining solar power generation.”

On Thursday, September 7, they issued a similar warning as well.

ERCOT requested that government agencies—including city and county offices—reduce their offices’ energy consumption.

The organization said it was combating the low energy supply by “using reserve power, calling upon reductions by large electric customers that have volunteered to lower their energy use, and bringing more generation online sooner.”

ERCOT also worked with “out-of-state Independent System Operators (ISOs) and Market Participants to obtain additional power generation capacity.”

However, despite the preventative measures, Texas’ power grid entered “Emergency Operations” Wednesday evening.

Although ERCOT said Texans should not expect rolling blackouts or outages, it issued an Emergency Alert Level 2, which allowed the power grid to access additional energy supplies.

ERCOT again attributed the extra strain to continued extreme temperatures, high electricity demand, and low solar and wind power supplies.

While the power grid struggles to stay online, bitcoin mining company Riot Platforms said it earned $31.7 million in energy credits from ERCOT in one month in return for using less electricity during August’s heatwave.

Historic Failings

Unreliable energy sources and ERCOT’s dependability came under fire in February 2021 after a winter storm blasted Texas.

As temperatures dipped below zero, ERCOT implemented rolling blackouts when the power grid struggled to meet the high energy demand. For days, millions of Texans suffered through extreme weather conditions without electricity.

ERCOT pointed towards unreliable energy sources, claiming more than half of the state’s wind turbines froze during the storm and failed to supply enough power.

Following the winter storm, Gov. Greg Abbott implored lawmakers to investigate and reform ERCOT, which led to the resignation of four board members and the firing of CEO Bill Magness.

However, ERCOT continued failing to produce enough energy for the state, with the North American Electric Reliability Corporation warning that Texas was at risk for a summer energy emergency last year.

Last summer, the organization issued a “conservation appeal” to citizens and businesses across the state. In the appeal, ERCOT urged Texans to raise their thermostat temperature and refrain from using large appliances. They also warned that low wind speeds and increased cloud coverage could severely limit energy collected from unreliable resources like wind turbines and solar panels.

Next Steps

ERCOT exited emergency conditions Wednesday evening and announced that no power outages were necessary.

However, Texas’ power supply once again broke the peak record of energy demand, with the grid requiring 82,705 megawatts on Wednesday.

Katy Marshall

Katy graduated from Tarleton State University in 2021 after majoring in history and minoring in political science.