Texas Is Expected to Break The Power-Demand Record as Heat Intensifies This Week

(Bloomberg) -- Texas’s fragile power grid will be pushed to the brink in coming days as unusually hot weather grips the second-largest US state.

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Electricity usage is forecast to break the all-time high by the end of the week, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or Ercot, warned. With temperatures expected to top 100F (38C) in Houston, Dallas and other Lone Star State cities, air-conditioning use is expected to soar to 80.3 gigawatts on Thursday and even higher on Friday. The record set last summer was 80.1 gigawatts.

The state capital Austin issued its first heat advisory of the season on Tuesday and opened cooling centers for residents without air conditioners. In Houston, passengers awaiting flights at George Bush Intercontinental Airport sweltered for a second straight day because the air-conditioning system wasn’t fully functioning.

Statewide, power supplies will be especially stretched on Friday when demand is projected to hover at a record level for four consecutive hours, according to Ercot data. The reserve margin — or buffer of extra electricity supplies — may shrink to as little as 5.3% during that stretch.

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Even before the worst of the heat has descended, National Weather Service forecasters were warning that in some parts of the state Tuesday it will feel like it’s 114F. The Texas grid normally doesn’t see demand spike this early in the cooling season.

--With assistance from Brian K. Sullivan.

(Adds Austin heat advisory in third paragraph, 114F forecast in fifth paragraph.)

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