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Winter Weather Brings Peak in Power Use

Winter Weather Brings Peak in Power Use

It’s been a chilly winter, and for Sam Houston Electric Cooperative members, they’ve seen temperatures well below annual averages. With news of a “polar vortex” and rolling blackouts, it’s clear frosty temperatures have had an impact nationwide.

Stifling, muggy heat is synonymous with the summer months in East Texas. But in fact, power use peaks during the winter months for Sam Houston EC.

“Believe it or not, our peak power use occurs during the fall and winter months,” said David Bell, Sam Houston Electric Cooperative chief technology officer. “January 7, we experienced a peak more than twice our average—a record for our Co-op.”

Bell explained that peaks in power use this time of year happen for many reasons—more than just exceptionally cold weather. Shorter days and longer nights, inefficient heating, holiday parties and extra houseguests can all attribute to peak power use and higher electric bills for Cooperative members.

Recent news reports about potentially inadequate power reserve margins in the Texas power grid have also caused some to wonder if East Texas will be affected.

“We work together with nine other East Texas electric cooperatives to make certain our members have more than enough electricity for even the hottest or coldest days,” said Keith Stapleton, Sam Houston Electric Cooperative chief communications officer. “With the construction of new power plants and the acquisition of other generating facilities, we have established a diversified portfolio of power resources, so our members can be assured of a more than adequate supply of electricity.”

The majority of the confusion stems from a lack of understanding about the Texas power grid, also known as ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas). There are three primary power grids in the United States. One serves the western U.S. Another serves the eastern part of the country. Then there’s the Texas grid—ERCOT.

What many people don’t realize, however, is that ERCOT does not encompass all parts of the state. The Texas power grid does not include Southeast Texas, Northeast Texas, the Panhandle and El Paso. With the exception of the area between Diboll and Huntington, almost all of the 69,000 homes and businesses served by Sam Houston Electric Cooperative are outside of ERCOT.

“While our power reserves are more than adequate,” Stapleton said, “we always encourage members to conserve. Unlike groceries and gasoline, electricity is paid for after it is consumed. Taking steps to conserve now will help our members avoid high bills later.”