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With Texans staying at home, what’s the impact on the state power grid and water usage?

Data show that for the weeks of March 22 and March 29, weekly energy was down by about 2%


Texans are staying home more, but they aren’t running up their electric bills.
Initial reports show that so far there have been minimal impacts to the Texas state power grid, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, which maintains the grid.
In fact, data show that for the weeks of March 22 and March 29, weekly energy was down by about 2%, according.

“The overall load reduction for the ERCOT region has leveled off over the past two weeks,” Calvin Opheim, ERCOT’s manager of load forecasting and analysis, said in a written statement.
There has also been minimal impacts to daily peaks of energy usage. The morning load — which ERCOT identifies as the 6 a.m to 10 a.m. time frame — has been about 6% to 10% lower than normal energy-use forecast models.
To closely monitor the situation, starting this week ERCOT will provide weekly updates on any changes to the load on the power grid.
Future reports could be more telling about the impact of Texans staying at home on the power grid. The report is based on the weeks of March 22 and March 29. Texas was not under a statewide stay-at-home order until March 31, when Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order that restricted social activities and defined which workers were considered essential and still able to go to work. Other Texas counties, such as Dallas County, were under shelter-in-place rules a week before that.
Several factors could play a role in the impact on statewide energy usage. The report reflects more businesses having employees work from home and the closure of others, such as restaurants, due to stay-at-home orders. Weather could also be playing a role. Mild spring weather across the state means that Texans aren’t cranking up the AC or turning on the heater every day.
“Weather always plays a factor in our load forecast and we adjust our forecasts accordingly to address changing weather conditions,” ERCOT spokeswoman Leslie Sopko said in an email. “Our seasonal assessments consider a range of scenarios, including extreme weather.”
Oncor has also not seen significant change in energy usage, according to spokeswoman Kerri Dunn. But that could change in the coming weeks as the weather gets warmer.
“As temperatures rise and more people continue working from home as a result of COVID-19, we expect to see an increase in residential electric usage,” Dunn said. Oncor facilities and equipment are prepared to handle this increase, however, we encourage customers to take proactive steps today to practice energy efficiency within their own homes.”
Small efforts, like using large appliances like dishwashers early in the morning or at night, reduce energy usage during peak periods of the day, Dunn said.
While many people are working from home, Oncor workers are still out in the field.
“We'd like to remind customers who may see our employees working on power lines or equipment in their area to please remember social distancing guidelines to help ensure the safety of themselves and our personnel,” Dunn said.
Water usage has also not been significantly affected in Dallas, according to Randy Payton, an assistant director for Dallas Water Utilities.
“It hasn’t had much effect with people staying at home,” Payton said. “We haven’t seen a change at all.
From January to date, the city has been using about 298 million gallons of water per day. In the same time frame last year, Dallas used about 300 million gallons of water per day.
To conserve energy, ERCOT recommends the following:
  • Set thermostats 2 to 3 degrees higher.
  • Use fans to feel 4 to 6 degrees cooler.
  • Set pool pumps to run early morning or overnight; shut them off during peak hours in the morning or evening.
  • Turn off and unplug non-essential lights and appliances.
  • Avoid using large appliances, such as ovens, washing machines, etc.
  • Businesses should minimize the use of electric lighting and electricity-consuming equipment as much as possible.
  • Large consumers of electricity should consider shutting down or reducing non-essential production processes.
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