With high temperatures looming over Austin for the next week, The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which controls about 90% of the state's electricity flow, is asking residents to conserve energy usage through Friday, June 18.
ERCOT issued the conservation alert via Tweet on Monday afternoon, saying that a high number of "forced generation outages combined with potential record electric use" during June have created tight grid conditions. Austin Energy echoed the request.
🔊CONSERVATION URGED! @ERCOT_ISO is asking Texans to reduce electric use as much as possible today, 6/14 through Friday, 6/18, due to statewide grid conditions.
ERCOT says a significant number of power generators have forced outages for repairs. (1/2)
— Austin Energy (@austinenergy) June 14, 2021
ERCOT is attributing the "tight grid conditions" to more electric generators than usual being shut down for repairs.
June is going to be hot—temperatures are expected to peak around 96 degrees every day through Friday. It's just the start of the Texas summer season with high temperatures likely not dipping below 90 degrees for the rest of the month.
ERCOT data indicated that energy demand may exceed capacity during peak heat hours. According to ERCOT, approximately 11,000 MW of generation is on forced outages for repairs and today's peak load forecast may exceed 73,000 MW. The previous record for June was 69,100 megawatts in 2018.
One MW typically powers 200 homes on a summer day.
ERCOT shared voluntary guidelines to reduce energy usage:
- Set your thermostat to 78 degrees or higher–every degree of cooling increases your energy use by 6-8%.
- Turn off lights and pool pumps and avoid using large appliances like ovens, washing machines and dryers.
- If you don't need something–turn it off and unplug it if possible.
ERCOT has been under scrutiny since the grid collapsed in February during Winter Storm Uri, leaving millions of Texans in the cold and dark for days. The mass outage prompted a series of changes, including resignations, termination of President and CEO Bill Magness and a state investigation.
ERCOT previously said in May that it expected a relatively mild summer for emergency conditions and said it expects a peak energy demand of 77,144 MW through September.
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Austin parents and grocery store shelves are feeling the effects of a nationwide baby formula shortage.
Caused mostly by a February recall due to contamination issues, followed by the Abbott Nutrition factory closure in Michigan, the shortage has left Austin shelves barren. However, earlier this week, U.S. officials announced a plan with the facility to restart production.
In the meantime, local parents in crisis have turned toward the Mother’s Milk Bank to keep their babies fed.
HEB on East 7th has been picked clean of formula and is limiting purchases. (Laura Figi/Austonia)
The milk bank—which takes donations from lactating mothers and dispenses milk to babies in the NICU—has been helping feed upwards of 30 families in need as the formula supply tightens.
According to the bank’s executive director Kim Updegrove, Mother’s Milk Bank has seen an uptick in calls from parents with healthy babies in need of help since the shortage began.
“We aren't used to hearing from families with healthy infants,” Updegrove said. “They're typically very upset, angry, frustrated, sobbing—it's scary to not be able to feed your infants. So in the past few weeks, those calls have been significantly increasing.”
Mothers are only able to donate if they are within a year postpartum, so Updegrove said they are constantly bringing on and retiring donors. While donors had been on a 30% decline leftover from 2021 when the shortage began, Updegrove said the shortage has led to mass community interest and more than 90 prospective donors in just the past few days.
“We and other milk banks are experiencing significant interest from the community—becoming milk donors and helping to turn around this crisis,” Updegrove said. “Every infant needs to be fed, every one of us can relate to that need, and we need to make sure as a community that it happens.”
Whole Foods downtown was also cleaned out of typical formula. (Laura Figi/Austonia)
While you may still be able to find formula at places like Whole Foods—which currently has goat milk, soy and plant-based formula in stock—Updegrove said it might not be what a baby needs.
Updegrove said it is best to buy types that say “infant formula,” as they are FDA approved and will provide the nutrients, vitamins and minerals a baby needs. Plant-based, homemade, non-cow's milk or diluting formula may not provide the same nutritional value.
As the community navigates the shortage, Updegrove said the most important way to help out is to not panic buy or stockpile.
“This is a crisis for families,” Updegrove said. “This is the time for the community to gather together and figure out what everyone can do to help families with young infants.”
Next time you’re sitting at a red light in Austin, you may look over and see a car without a person at the driver’s wheel.
Autonomous vehicle tech company Argo AI has brought driverless operations to Austin and Miami, starting out with only company employees using the service. Later on, tests with Lyft and Walmart will carry out ride-sharing and grocery delivery services, with the help of a human safety operator. The company has already made moves on this front in Miami Beach where some Lyft passengers have used its autonomous vehicles with a human operator.
While its platform is designed for integration with multiple vehicle types, the test fleet uses the Ford Escape Hybrid and VW's all-electric ID.Buzz.
The Pittsburgh-based company says this progress on its autonomy platform has been more than five years in the making and boasted about reaching this milestone before others.
"Argo is first to go driverless in two major American cities, safely operating amongst heavy traffic, pedestrians and bicyclists in the busiest of neighborhoods," said Bryan Salesky, Founder and CEO of Argo AI.
Expect to see the autonomous cars on the road during daytime business hours as the tech aims to learn from a diversity of road infrastructure and driving behaviors.
The company, which is testing in eight cities in the U.S. and Europe, has brought its tech to Austin as the company looks to expand in densely-populated cities. In particular, Argo is looking at ridesharing, delivery and logistics companies for integrating its autonomous vehicles into their digital services.
Argo anticipates its service availability to someday cover more than 15 million people in Austin, Miami and Washington D.C.
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