WACO, TX — As temperatures across the state of Texas break into the triple-digits, ERCOT is reporting consumption levels are slightly below projections due to COVID-19. Still, they warn peak energy consumption could hit all-time highs.
"In Texas, the A/C takes up 20 to 30 percent of electricity, so that's a big chunk of the power consumption," Le Xie, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and Assistant Director of Texas A&M Energy Institute, said.
Xie has partnered with scientists around the globe to compile and analyze data trends relating to COVID-19's impact on energy consumption.
He said they have seen a noticeable decrease in energy consumption sparked by the closing of businesses. While energy consumption in the residential sector may be up as more people work from home, the business sector has seen a large drop-off.
"All things combined, economic productivity is on the lower side, and that will in turn, unfortunately lead to a lower level of energy consumption," Xie said.
According to ERCOT, the greatest impacts from COVID-19 were seen in April. Consumption was down two to five percent while most of the state was shut down, compared to predictive models. In the last few weeks of June, that number had shrunk to less than one percent.
"Activities are still temporarily or even permanently shut down, so that will affect energy consumption," Xie said.
Despite the drop in consumption compared to predictive models, Texas has continued to see a slight rise in peak-level consumption as more people move into the state. The increased population, combined with a string of 100-plus degree days, has led ERCOT to believe the state could break its peak-level consumption record.
"We are experiencing a very, very hot summer this year," Xie said. "So you are going to expect this peak level consumption to go up."
ERCOT has outlined a few recommendations to help reduce your energy footprint:
- Raise your thermostat
- Use fans (can drop temperature four degrees)
- Unplug non-essential lights and electronics
- Run major appliances outside of peak hours
- Set pool pumps to run early morning or overnight; shut them off during peak hours in the morning or evening.
Xie recommends setting your thermostat to its lowest setting around 2 p.m. and letting the house cool down before shutting off the air conditioner during peak hours. The heat will then warm your house back to a comfortable level.
This will allow you to avoid using your air conditioner during those peak hours.
"Everybody does their fair share," Xie said. "It's not only good for you, because you pay less on your bill, but it's also good for the grid."
Xie said consumption could once again see a major drop if the state shuts down businesses again.