While Texans across the state waited to see the totality of the solar eclipse on April 8th, others were waiting to critique how the Texas electrical grid would hold up during the rare event.  Would it hold tight with no disruptions, or would it succumb to the lack of solar output and cause interruptions? After all, the Lone Star state is the largest producer of solar energy, setting a new ERCOT record for solar production just two weeks ago, generating 18,877 megawatts (MW). For reference, one MW is enough to power 200 homes on a hot summer day. There seems to be no stopping renewables and their ability to generate clean energy at an extremely low cost to Texans.

Photo credit: GridStatus.io

Kudos to ERCOT for handing the event with little to no disruptions. Yes, solar output dropped to below 1% during the peak of the eclipse. However, the plans in place worked well and we were able to post photos on social media of us in the goofy glasses and our less than stellar phone pictures of the sun and moon seemingly colliding.

What does energy efficiency have to do with the eclipse?  Plenty!

Energy Efficiency is the force multiplier for the great State of Texas and can play a vital role in providing resource adequacy, also known as grid reliability, and resilience to our often stressed-out grid. In the summer of 2023, ERCOT set 11 peak demand records, topping out at over 85,000 MW.Photo credit: ERCOT

By offering more energy efficiency programs to customers across the state, our electric providers can help to lower power bills as well as pull much needed kilowatts (KWs) off the grid.  During an event like the eclipse, fewer KWs used means fewer KWs needing to be generated.  Programs for weatherization, heat pumps, and residential demand response all have the ability to reduce the KWs on the grid. Additionally, these types of efficiency programs also help during our much more frequent weather events, both summer and winter.  When demand narrows in on supply, electricity prices skyrocket, maxing out at $5,000 per MWh, down from the previous $9,000 price cap thanks to SB 3 (passed during the 87th Texas legislative session). While energy efficiency alone cannot eliminate our need for more power in Texas’ future as the state’s population grows and businesses expand, it can be a force multiplier to help offset some of the peak demand and future weather event demand that we will surely face.