School starts Aug. 22 for most area public schools with many concerned about what that will mean for the state's strained energy grid. Today Texas Education Agency commissioner Robert Scott sent word to administrators that the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, has factored the increase in energy associated with the start of school into its forecast of electricity needs.
"ERCOT does not anticipate that the start of school will strain the grid beyond capacity but will continue to closely monitor the weather forecast for the entire state to determine whether any additional conservation measures are necessary," Scott wrote in a letter to administrators. However, he urged them to do what they could to reduce energy use, particularly during the peak hours of 3-7 p.m.
"Our electric supply in Texas is strong but not unlimited," he wrote. "When the conditions are as extreme as those we have seen this summer, we must all do our part to conserve, particularly during peak hours."
His advice for reducing energy during peak hours, which is generally after most schools let out, included setting thermostats two to four degrees warmer than usual, unplugging water fountains in the hallways and avoiding non-essential activities that require electricity, such as charging electronic devices or large copy jobs.
Many districts have already been taking steps to reduce use, including the Fort Worth school. Earlier this month, they urged staff to monitor electric use and reduce it as much as possible at work and at home. One Fort Worth ISD staffer I talked to last week said she had just a small lamp on in her office to conserve electricity.