Texas grid operator deploys emergency response service as reserves drop

FILE PHOTO: People react to a period of hot weather in Houston

(Reuters) -The main grid operator in Texas said on Thursday it had engaged its emergency system after electricity reserves dropped below the critical 3,000 MW level due to increased power usage amid a heatwave.

The Electric Reliability Council Of Texas (ERCOT), which operates the grid for more than 26 million customers which use about 90% of the state's power load, said it had operating reserves of 2,929 MW as of 8:37 p.m. CDT.

Power usage was projected to hit 87,083 MW on Friday, a new record high as demand has surged over the summer.

Temperatures in Houston, the most populous city in Texas, reached as high as 102.2 degrees Fahrenheit (39°Celsius) on Thursday, according to AccuWeather.

Extreme weather in Texas has been in focus since a deadly storm in February 2021 left millions without power, water and heat for days as ERCOT struggled to avoid a grid collapse.

The Emergency Response Service (ERS) helps decrease the likelihood of system-wide load shedding by paying qualified entities to make arrangements with residential, commercial and industrial participants to either reduce consumption or increase generation across the grid.

"ERCOT is requesting Transmission Operators to implement distribution voltage reduction measures if available," it said in a notice.

ERCOT said it also expected lower power reserves due to reduced wind generation.

Real-time power prices rose above $5,000 in most of ERCOT Texas hubs, according to the ERCOT website.

The grid operator had earlier urged consumers to conserve power between 3 p.m. CDT (2000 GMT) and 8 p.m. CDT on Thursday as demand surged.

Discount Power, a unit of NRG Energy, the largest U.S. retail electricity provider, had also requested that its Texas customers conserve electricity between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. CDT.

(Reporting by Ashitha Shivaprasad, Rahul Paswan, Harshit Verma and Swati Verma in Bengaluru; Editing by Chris Reese, Paul Simao and Diane Craft and Miral Fahmy)