Recent Weather Fluctuations Put Strain on Valley Power Grid

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BROWNSVILLE – A new report shows Texas is facing a 10 percent decrease in reserve electricity.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, says the Rio Grande Valley is already challenging providers when it comes to electricity.

When there’s an emergency, the Community Service Agency in Hidalgo County is one of the first places people go. Executive Director Jimen Longoria one of the first people you’ll meet.

“Realizing we’re all just one illness, one paycheck away from poverty,” said Longoria.

The agency helps those who are struggling keep the lights on, but doing so may be out of their hands.

With weather extremes, Emergency Management Coordinator Ricardo Saldana says sustainable electricity in the Valley is something they’re trying to cope with.

“It’s becoming common now," says Saldana, "because of the summer weather conditions that we’ve been having lately, as high as the temperatures have been, the use of the air conditioners putting a strain on our power grid. It’s come to that point.”

He went on to tell us, “We’ve had the point where we’ve had certain areas shut down to save on electricity.”

ERCOT's report shows the electric planning reserve margin will drop from 18.9 percent to 9.3 percent for summer of 2018.

ERCOT representative Robbie Searcy told CHANNEL 5 NEWS that this isn’t just a problem in the summer. She says winter heating creates spikes in peak power usage.

“Since you have such a warm climate, the type of heat people use often can be somewhat inefficient and use more electricity than other types of heat,” says Searcy.

Searcy told CHANNEL 5 NEWS the Valley’s remote location and growing infrastructure have, for years, created a sustainability issue.

"If a power plant is down, it can become a challenge to make sure we get enough electricity to that area from other parts of the grid,” she says.

In 2016, she says the addition of a new transmission line-drawing power from outside the Valley helped. Searcy says the area isn’t out of the woods yet.

ERCOT gave the green light on two more transmission projects. They should be complete in 2018 and 2020.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality recommends several steps to reduce your power use.

  • UNPLUG POWER STRIPS: TCEQ reports unplugging power strips can save you up to $180 dollars a year. That standby power accounts for up 5-10 percent of the electricity you use.
  • CEILING FANS: Use ceiling fans while you’re in the room, which will allow you to feel comfortable with the thermostat raised 4 degrees.
  • LED LIGHTING: Make the switch to LED bulbs
  • ADJUST YOUR THERMOSTAT: Set it at 78 degrees or higher in the summer. They recommend 68 degrees or lower in the winter.
  • TURN OFF THE LIGHTS: Simply flip that switch. A light burning 8 hours a day can burn $20 of cash a year.
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