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LUBBOCK — Previously, when residents of this West Texas hub saved energy, it was largely because they wanted to avoid high energy bills. Now they do because last May most electricity customers here were moved from a city-owned power grid to the main state power grid, operated by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas – who twice asked Texans to save energy this week.
Being asked to reduce individual consumption to avoid large-scale blackouts is a new experience for Lubbock residents.
Like the rest of the state, Lubbock was hit by a heat wave this week. Temperatures soared over 100 degrees for several days before hitting 105 degrees on Tuesday, the third hottest day of the year so far.
Amid scorching temperatures across the state this week, ERCOT sent out two conservation notices asking Texans to voluntarily turn their thermostats to 78 degrees and avoid using large appliances so electricity usage doesn’t exceed not supply. Some people here have taken these opinions seriously.
“Anytime I heard there was going to be trouble or we had extreme weather, I was always proactive and started to unplug things,” said resident Jacinda Willingham. longtime Lubbock. “I decided I was going to try and start turning my thermostat up to see if I could survive and have some level of comfort.”
Willingham is 70, works from home and now keeps her house temperature at 75 degrees. When she sees that a day is expected to be over 100 degrees, she will wake up early to do all her housework and cook for the day before the temperatures get too high. She does most of her work in a single office, which happens to be the hottest room in her house, and tries to get her work done early before putting her computer into rest mode when temperatures rise, then returning to it as the temperature rises. and as it needs.
Even with his life adjustments, Willingham still worries about what might happen if Lubbock is now caught up in blackouts.
“ERCOT said we don’t need to have [rolling blackouts]but it freaked me out because I didn’t even know we might have to do it,” Willingham said.
Power grids must maintain the balance between supply and demand at all times. When the Texas mainnet falls below its oversupply safety margin, the network operator begins to take extra precautions to avoid outages. The first precaution is to ask the public to voluntarily reduce their electricity consumption.
Lubbock’s decision to join ERCOT’s grid came several years before the winter storm of 2021 caused both a dramatic drop in electricity supply and an increase in customer demand for electricity. To prevent a catastrophic grid outage that could have lasted months, ERCOT initiated what were supposed to be blackouts that ended up lasting days for millions of Texans. Lubbock was able to largely avoid this experience as he had not yet joined ERCOT, but some residents quickly wondered if joining the grid was still a good idea.
“It was a process that had been evaluated for years,” said Christy Martinez-Garcia, a member of the Lubbock City Council. “But I think the audience wasn’t really prepared.”
Last June, Lubbock Power & Light transferred 70% of its customers to the ERCOT market. The remaining 30% will join next year. One of the reasons city officials decided years ago to join the main power grid was so residents could have more options for their electric provider.
“It was a good sell to have competition, because that was the whole point of ERCOT, it was to bring more competition to consumers,” said Drew Landry, a resident of Lubbock and a professor at the South Plains College. “That’s great, but when the network collapsed last February, we saw that all of these companies were going to raise their rates, so the thought was, ‘Is this what we’re getting into? “”
Martinez-Garcia said it would be beneficial to hold public meetings to help show residents how to adapt to extreme weather, no matter how stable the grid.
“With this major heat wave we’re having across the state, I think whether we’re part of ERCOT or [Lubbock Power & Light]I feel like we should have prepared for this,” Martinez-Garcia said.
She said people can do more than turn up their thermostats, including replacing air filters, closing blinds and curtains, and avoiding using laundry appliances and ovens whenever possible.
“We need to create smart energy habits. I think that’s going to help us reduce and improve efficiency,” Martinez-Garcia said.
Texans and businesses reduced energy use by 500 megawatts and helped ERCOT meet record electricity demand, according to an ERCOT statement Monday, when Texans were urged to save electricity. ERCOT also said the conservation call was the result of high demand, low wind, forced thermal outages and cloud cover in West Texas that reduced solar output.
While Gov. Greg Abbott has reassured Texans that the network has been fixed, experts disagree and conservation demands still raise doubts about its stability — and stoke fears of further outages.
“I’m about as skeptical as ever when it comes to something like this,” Landry said. “Every time we get another notice, it’s like what’s the matter here? I thought they fixed the grid because Governor Abbott repeatedly said so.
Landry added, “I guess that’s what you have to say. We must try to reassure everyone. But it turns out there might be other things you could do. When you look at where things have failed, how do we know it’s okay? »
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