HOUSTON (Reuters) - The Texas power grid operator said electric usage this week could break the all-time peak seen earlier this month and urged consumers to reduce power use to avoid rolling outages.
A brutal heatwave now entering its fifth week has strained the state's power generating supply and pushed power prices to record levels.
Extreme heat covering the state led to record weekend power use Saturday and Sunday as Texans cranked up air conditioners to cope with triple-digit temperatures and drought.
Houston, the state's biggest metropolitan area, hit 109 Fahrenheit Saturday and is forecast to see a high of 102 Monday. Dallas hit 106 on Saturday and is projected to hit 105 Monday.
That heat led ERCOT to set back-to-back weekend power use records as demand soared above 65,100 megawatts on Saturday afternoon, then hit 65,159 MW on Sunday, according to initial data posted on the ERCOT website.
That's very high demand for a typical weekday when schools and offices are open.
"We can't stress this enough; we need everyone to conserve electricity from 3-7 p.m. EDT," said ERCOT spokeswoman Theresa Gage. "If every person in ERCOT does a little, it makes a huge difference."
The loss of a single large generating unit could force the imposition of rolling outages, something that has occurred in ERCOT only three times in 21 years.
Last week, Texas avoided having to interrupt electric service to residential customers by curtailing power to some industrial customers who agree to reduce use during emergencies.
Peak-hour demand has exceeded 66,000 MW on 15 weekdays this month and exceeded 67,000 MW on at least five days, according to initial data from ERCOT.
That far outpaces last summer when power demand peaked at 65,776 MW during the first week of school in late August.
Ercot manages the flow of electricity to about 23 million people in Texas, representing 75 percent of the state's land area.
(Reporting by Eileen O'Grady)