Stay-at-home not pushing up demand on grid

HARLINGEN — Shelter-at-home restrictions for Rio Grande Valley residents is currently not affecting power companies, although officials say it is likely residential bills may be a little bit higher when they arrive next month.

AEP Texas and Magic Valley Electric Cooperative, along with the statewide power grid called ERCOT, are not experiencing any undue demands on the grid, spokespersons said Monday.

“As far as I know off the top of my head, no,” said Eladio Jaimez, a spokesperson for AEP Texas. “Nothing’s been out of the ordinary. We haven’t really had any problems or issues when it comes to the grid.”

At Magic Valley, headquartered in La Feria, spokesperson Luis Reyes said any increase in residential demand probably is more than balanced out by the temporary suspensions of school districts and many businesses.

“They consume a lot of energy, so with no school, right now we’re seeing a lot less demand from the commercial accounts, and that is across the board,” Reyes said.

But he said residential customers should be prepared to see their bills for this month rise a little higher than usual when they arrive next month.

“Possibly their bills’ going to be slightly higher compared to their previous month because now there are more people at home and they’re doing more activities,” Reyes said. “Just imagine, if you have a family and you have a couple of TVs in different rooms and video games, that energy use is going to be higher than the previous month.”

Texas is unique among U.S. states in that it has its own electrical grid, the nonprofit Electricity Reliability Council of Texas, which provides power to 90% of the state.

ERCOT is currently operating under its COVID-19 Pandemic Preparedness Plan to ensure delivery during the crisis and is experiencing no undue surges in demand, officials say.

Part of the reason for that, if anything in the current coronavirus pandemic can be called lucky, is the time of the year the shelter-at-home directives were issued.

Both Jaimez and Reyes say things may have been different if such measures were ordered in mid-summer instead of early summer in Texas.

“The weather’s just about to change, it hasn’t completely changed yet,” Jaimez noted.

“Because the weather has been cooperating, then the AC obviously is not working as hard as it would be in the summer,” Reyes said. “In a way it’s better this is happening now as compared to the summertime because in the summertime you tend to have more energy use because of the weather.”