A Chill Won’t Be What Drives Texas Power Use to Winter Record

Updated on
  • Texas power demand forecast to reach a record this winter
  • All-time high hit in 2011 when a cold snap caused blackouts

Texans are projected to use more electricity this winter heating season than ever before. And it’s not because of the weather.

Electric Reliability of Council of Texas Inc., operator of the state’s power grid, forecast on Thursday that demand will peak at 58,591 megawatts between December and February, when households are typically running their heaters to keep warm. That would top a winter record hit in 2011 when a cold snap triggered rolling blackouts across Texas.

This time, the droves of people moving to the Lone Start State is what’s forecast to drive up power demand. Its population has risen by more than 2 million in the five years through 2014, government data show.

“The drivers on our increased load are increased customers in the area and increased economic activity,” Calvin Opheim, the grid operator’s manager of load forecasting and analysis, said in a call with reporters Thursday.

Don’t get too excited, power market bulls. The grid operator also projected that plants will generate more than enough electricity to meet demand. It forecast a supply buffer of 22,877 megawatts that’ll come in handy on those extreme days when temperatures plunge.

“There is going to be a lot of demand,” said Jason Schenker, president of Prestige Economics LLC in Austin, Texas, “but there’s a lot of supply.”