It was a narrow escape for Texas residents on Monday January 6th, as the state almost faced a blackout following the failure of several power plants. The power plants crumbled as a result of the spike in demand on the electric grid due to the cold weather facing almost half of the country.
Two of the state’s largest power plants were among those that failed. The failure of the plants resulted in a deficit of approximately 3,700 megawatts of electricity.
The power grid is managed by the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), who launched level 2 of their Energy Emergency Alert as a result of the power plants’ failure. Demand for electricity stood at 55,486 megawatts early Monday morning. Power companies had to purchase electricity from Mexico and the eastern power grid to fulfill the demand during the period of the emergency alert.
Electricity bill assistance is available for low income Texans including those in Houston. But time is running out. In their 2013 legislative session lawmakers voted to phase out the program in 2016. But over the next several years benefits will be substantially increased to make use of a large surplus in the account that funds the program known as Lite-Up Texas.
The System Benefit Fund has built up a surplus of $800 million dollars over the years. Texas residential and business customers have paid in to the fund through a fee added to the electricity bills of most Texans. The state, however, has been reluctant to use the funds.
In 2013 low income Texans have until August 10th to apply for assistance through the program. Those who qualify can receive a discount on their bills of up to 82 percent. This is a big increase from prior years. The discount will be available for the May through September period in 2014 as well.
To qualify Texan’s have to have a salary at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty level. Anyone who receives food stamps of Medicaid are automatically enrolled in the program. For more information visit the Lite-up Texas website.