Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect the number of Bitcoin mining operations in Texas.

High temperatures, rapid population growth and an influx of cryptocurrency and artificial intelligence companies will continue to squeeze Texas’ power grid, energy officials reported this month.

This August, there is a 12% chance of rotating power outages on nights with little wind, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the power grid for 90% of the state. ERCOT began releasing monthly reports projecting future grid reliability in December.

Demand for energy may nearly double in the next six years, ERCOT leaders told state lawmakers June 12. Last summer, demand on the grid reached a record of 85,508 megawatts—and it could rise to around 150,000 megawatts by 2030. One megawatt of electricity can power about 250 homes, according to ERCOT.

“We have been talking for years about the incredible growth that Texas has been experiencing, just from its successful business economy, from the migration of population into the state of Texas and the associated businesses that are coming as well,” ERCOT CEO Pablo Vegas said June 12. “All of that is putting together a picture of a very significant, different demand growth that is forcing us to really rethink how we're looking at planning to make sure that we can meet those needs and continue to deliver on the expectations of all Texans.”

What you need to know

2023 was Texas’ hottest year on record, and some portions of the state have already experienced temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit this year.

During the summer, the strain on the power grid is typically highest from 8-9 p.m., when more people are using electricity and less solar power is available. If wind power production is also low, ERCOT may ask Texans to reduce their energy use. The grid operator called for energy conservation 11 times last summer.

This July, if wind is low, ERCOT projects about a 4.8% chance of a grid emergency and a 2.36% chance of rotating blackouts from 8-9 p.m. In August, those chances jump to 16.33% and 12.02%, respectively.

A grid emergency occurs when ERCOT’s power reserves fall below 2,500 megawatts and are not expected to recover within 30 minutes. Officials may direct power companies to start rotating outages, which typically last about 45 minutes, if reserves drop below 1,500 megawatts.

Eighty-four percent of Texas voters expect they will be asked to conserve power this summer, while 63% expect temporary power outages, the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin found. Meanwhile, 51% said they anticipate a “widespread failure of the electric grid” this summer.

Researchers surveyed 1,200 registered voters from May 31-June 9.

Looking ahead

A large portion of new demand on the Texas grid will come from cryptocurrency mining operations and AI data centers, Vegas told lawmakers June 12.

Texas leads the nation in bitcoin mining operations, according to the Texas Blockchain Council. There are around 30 industrial-scale Bitcoin mining sites across the state, which collectively consume about 2,900 megawatts of electricity, said Texas Blockchain Council president Lee Bratcher.

New power generation and transmission facilities must be built to meet the growing demand, energy experts said. Lawmakers expressed concerns that residents would be hit with the costs of developing new infrastructure.

Sen. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, suggested the state “treat that for-profit generation a little differently.” He said large cryptocurrency companies should pay for the grid infrastructure needed to support their business.

“If Bitcoin miners want to go out there to take advantage of the new transmission and all of a sudden take up all the generation ... what if we asked them to build their own damn toll road?” he said, comparing electric transmission lines to a highway system. “Why should my constituents pay for just those Bitcoin miners to do what they want to do?”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said the legislature needed to “take a close look” at cryptocurrency and AI operations.

“Texans will ultimately pay the price. I’m more interested in building the grid to service customers in their homes, apartments, and normal businesses and keeping costs as low as possible for them instead of for very niche industries that have massive power demands and produce few jobs,” Patrick said in a social media post. “We want data centers, but it can’t be the Wild Wild West of data centers and crypto miners crashing our grid and turning the lights off.”