AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — The hot summer months in the Panhandle mean more people turning on their air conditioners, reaching peak demand for electricity. But Xcel Energy said their power supply is prepared.
Texas has already had its fair share of concerns about reliable electricity this year. As we head into summer, peak demand is approaching. However, the Panhandle does not share the same concerns as the rest of the state—although, the Panhandle has also faced a number of power outages during the summer months.
“The summer is our big moment. For the electric company, we know that the demand is going to get really high. Usually, it peaks around the first of August,” said Xcel Energy spokesman Wes Reeves.
Reeves said Xcel Energy has a large reserve margin of electricity for the summer.
“Reserve margin essentially means we know what the peak demand is likely to be and then we have a reserve beyond that. So, we have enough electricity supply to meet the peak demand, plus as much as 20% reserve margin,” Reeves said. “So that’s very good, we’re in really good shape.”
“I always want people to remember that if they’re hearing something that’s happening in Dallas, it’s not affecting us here. Now, the same conditions may be affecting us but we’re just a little bit different in terms of how we’re set up and how our market works, and so it doesn’t mean it’s going to be affecting us here,” he said.
Xcel Energy focuses on weatherization to prevent outages during extreme weather conditions, Reeves said.
“We’ve invested a lot in our delivery systems, and when I say delivery, I’m just talking about wires, substations, and power lines. And that’s where we can also see problems sometimes in the summer. You might have enough supply of electricity, but then you might have a bottleneck in terms of getting it where it needs to go.”
He said for that reason, Xcel Energy has added more substations in parts of Amarillo and Canyon to meet demand.
“We don’t really ever have much trouble with heat affecting our power plants. Typically, you know, the only thing that can really affect that is if we have a lot of power plants offline for some reason, some unplanned reason but that’s why we do a lot of maintenance in the springtime, and then also in the fall, when the temperatures are less extreme, we take those units down,” he continued. “And we have a regular schedule of maintenance and overhauls to get them in good shape for the summer.”
Reeves said the only cause for concern this summer would be if Xcel dipped far into its power reserves.
“In that case, we would put out a conservation appeal and let customers know, just similar to what we did in the winter, right before the big freeze,” Reeves said. “We told folks that it’s going to get really cold and you might want to conserve.”
He said conservation efforts can also help keep the power on in each neighborhood when necessary.
“If we get a really hot day and we start seeing everybody coming home at once and turning their air conditioner on, sometimes there are overloads on systems. As much as we invested in the system, there’s always going to be some weak point that we haven’t gotten to yet,” Reeves said.
He said because an entire block sometimes shares a transformer, it is best to wait to use large appliances until temperatures drop in the evening.
“I always tell folks, it’s just better to wait till after seven o’clock in the evening because it keeps you cooler. If you’re running your clothes dryer, you’re doing household chores, you are gonna get hot,” he continued. “So just some little habits that you can change around the house every day, not only helps you keep your power on, but keep it on for your neighbors as well.”
If the entire 14-state region in the Southwest Power Pool is in a heatwave, conservation can help. Reeves also said the capability to import power is vital in extreme heat.
“The good thing is being part of the Southwest Power Pool, we have a lot of import capability that we didn’t have 10 years ago, even. So, we can bring in a lot of extra supply that will help us,” Reeves said. “Sometimes it’s even a cheaper supply and so that helps us on our bills as well.”
On any given day, Reeves said Xcel Energy moves energy back and forth with its neighbors based on price in the SPP market. He said SPP looks at the day ahead and the forecast to determine demand. Then, all the members in the SPP footprint nominate their power plants for production the next day.
“The Southwest Power Pool then chooses which ones will operate based on price. It’s really driven by price. They’re looking for the cheapest energy they can get and of course, then if you get a really hot day, you basically got to crank everything got,” Reeves continued. “And so price becomes less of an issue. Then, it becomes an issue of making sure we’ve got everything running and we can take care of everything. But we’ve got that security, of having that really strong connection with our neighbors and I think that’s very helpful going into a summer like this.”
Reeves said while Xcel Energy has more than the required reserve amount for the summer.
“We feel good about where we are and we’ll just kind of, like everybody else, wait and see what the summer is like, and just be conservative,” said Reeved. “And always know that things can change, of course, but we’ll definitely communicate with our customers as quickly as we can if something does change.”
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