Texas’s power grid operator is asking residents to conserve electricity from 6-9 a.m. Jan. 16 as below-freezing temperatures continue across the state.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas anticipates a high demand for energy as Texans return to work and school after Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This is the second consecutive day officials requested energy conservation.

What you need to know

A conservation appeal is voluntary and does not indicate an emergency. Officials expect limited sunshine and wind, which help power the grid, combined with record-breaking demand early Jan. 16.

If power reserves drop significantly, ERCOT would enter emergency operations, such as activating backup generators, interrupting service for large industrial customers or implementing rolling outages.

Emergency operations are rare. Officials have emphasized that the electric grid can withstand severe winter weather, and Texans should not expect a repeat of February 2021.

“The grid is better prepared than it has ever been before, in particular as it relates to cold weather events like this,” ERCOT CEO Pablo Vegas said during a Jan. 12 news conference.

ERCOT has made various improvements to the grid since 2021, including winterizing power plants and generators.

Also of note

Some residents may experience power outages during the freeze, due to high winds or ice on power lines and tree limbs. Local outages are not related to grid reliability, ERCOT officials said in a news release.

Texans can contact their local utility providers or visit www.puc.texas.gov/storm for information about outages. Staff at the Public Utility Commission of Texas can answer additional questions at [email protected] or 1-888-782-8477.

During cold weather, utility companies are not allowed to disconnect power for customers who have not paid their bills. According to the PUCT, providers cannot disconnect customers in areas where temperatures did not exceed 32 degrees Fahrenheit during the previous day and are expected to remain low for the next 24 hours.

Service areas under disconnection moratoriums are listed on ERCOT’s website.

By the numbers

ERCOT officials said emergency conditions were successfully avoided the morning of Jan. 15, when residents and businesses were asked to conserve energy from 6-10 a.m.

Texans set a new winter record of 75,559 megawatts of demand on the grid between 9-10 a.m. Jan. 15, according to the news release.

The all-time demand record of 85,508 megawatts was set in August. ERCOT officials issued several conservation requests over the summer but did not enter emergency operations.

Conserving energy

During cold weather, ERCOT recommends lowering temperatures in homes and businesses by 1-2 degrees, if safe to do so. Texans can also:
  • Avoid using large appliances, like laundry machines.
  • Turn off and unplug nonessential lights and appliances.
  • Cover windows with insulated curtains.
  • Open blinds to warm rooms if the sun is shining.
  • Set ceiling fans to reverse to draw down warm air that builds up near ceilings.
All state and local government agencies should reduce their energy use until at least 9 a.m. Jan. 16, ERCOT said.

Read Community Impact’s previous reporting for information about cold weather shelters, preventing carbon monoxide poisoning and more.

Stay tuned

Conditions will likely be similar Jan. 17, according to the release. Officials said they would inform Texans if additional conservation is needed.

“ERCOT will remain vigilant and communicate further if conditions change because of continued freezing temperatures and very high demand in the morning hours,” ERCOT officials said in the release.

Texans can sign up for emergency alerts about the power grid here.