(September 18, 2020)
With more people staying home since the beginning of the pandemic, Texas has seen energy demand shift away from commercial towards residential usage. However, the August spike in energy demand remained consistent this year, driven by air conditioning needs due to high temperatures while the majority of the population remained at home.
According to ABC 13 Houston, overall energy usage has risen significantly since it hit a low in April. But the grid is coping well with the growth in demand, according to Andrew Barlow of the Public Utility Commission of Texas.
“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,” he explains.
Between March and May, for example, Austin Energy saw a 10 percent increase in residential energy use and a 17 percent decline in commercial demand compared to the same period in 2019. Even after lockdown measures were eased, residential energy usage was still 9 percent higher in early July compared to a year earlier.
Power prices in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) market rose above $300 during August heat waves, well short of the price spikes that reached $9,000 in August 2019. ERCOT went into the summer with higher energy reserves than in 2019, when it declared an energy emergency on two separate occasions.