Increased electricity usage in COVID-19 affects service from Texas power providers

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Wednesday, August 5, 2020
Power companies deal with electricity use changes in COVID
ABC13's Jeff Ehling explains the changes the Texas power grid has seen as more residents stay home due to COVID-19.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Texans are no stranger to the summer heat, and many rely on home air conditioning to keep them cool.

The Texas power grid system is designed to handle the influx of electricity due to increased cooling system usage during warmer weather, but certainly saw a change since March.

With more residents working at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Texas power grid system needed to be able to accommodate the increased use of power.

In April, the state actually saw an overall decrease in demand, but now that August is here, the usage is back up.

And, ABC13 reporter Jeff Ehling got a notification last week from his service provider asking them to cut back.

READ ALSO: How to get assistance in paying your utility bill in midst of pandemic

But state officials have said the grid is handling the current load well because commercial use of electricity has decreased as the number of customers coming inside businesses has decreased.

"There has been an uptick, like I said, in the residential use of electricity, and it is broadly accepted that it is simply a factor of people working more from home, but, at the same time, I would argue that there is an offset in class A office space using less electricity because there are fewer people in them," said Andrew Barlow from Public Utility Commission of Texas.

Also, retail power providers often guess how much energy their customers will need and buy that estimate months in advance. If the provider sees usage topping their estimate, the provider has to buy bulk electricity from, what's called, the spot market.

It costs the company more, but if you have a long-term contract, the consumer can't be charged more. The company then asks customers to cut back to help protect their business.