By Rebecca Rose and Holly Wise

Killeen Daily Herald

Weather forecasters predict very high temperatures today and Sunday, and the states's bulk transmission grid operator wants Texas residents to conserve as much energy as possible.

"Our information indicates this weekend will be one of the hottest on record in some areas of Texas," said Trip Doggett, chief executive officer of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas Friday in a statement.

People should reduce their energy consumption particularly between 3 and 7 p.m., which is considered the peak usage period. On Friday, peak usage was 64,851 megawatts at 4 p.m., according to ERCOT. The usage record stands at 68,294 megawatts on Aug. 3 between 4 and 5 p.m.

"The unprecedented heat that has hit Texas is the major driver as far as demand encroaching upon available supply," said Bill Clayton, vice president of customer care operations for Reliant Energy. " I've never seen anything like it."

Without any relief from the heat in long-range forecasts, consumer conservation efforts are critical.

"Until we get some significant break, we're going to be facing this day to day for the duration of the week," said Karl K. Green, area manager of operations for Oncor Electric Delivery. "It's beneficial, it really is."

Clayton said electricity is a precious commodity. "We do believe that conservation is good," he said. "A reduction in demand of electricity is good for the environment."

"When demand starts encroaching upon the available supply, that's when ERCOT starts sending out warnings," Clayton added.

ERCOT's first warnings involve encouraging conservation efforts. "The second is when they start asking industrial and large commercial accounts to start shedding load," Clayton said. "Those are businesses that are on very specific rates, called interruptible rates."

Rolling outages could follow if those conservation measures are not successful. "We do not want to get to that point," Clayton said. "Everybody can do their part to protect against the possibility of rotating outages by doing a few simple things."

Green said air conditioning units are a main culprit for high energy consumption. "We always recommend for cooling, 78 degrees or higher," he said. "It depends on what (consumers) can tolerate; if they can tolerate more, that's better."

Clayton recommended using ceiling fans as a way to combat heat when indoors.

"It costs less than a penny an hour to operate and makes you about 4 degrees cooler," he said.

However, Clayton cautioned against keeping ceiling fans on when residences are unoccupied. "They're for people, not for rooms," he said. "They will not lower the ambient temperature of your home or your apartment."

Clearwater announces Stage 3 drought for Trinity Aquifer users

The Clearwater Underground Water Conservation District is now in Stage 3 of conservation measures for well-water owners using the Trinity Aquifer. Those using water from the Edwards Aquifer are in Stage 2.

The district strongly encourages 30 percent water conservation by Trinity users, and 20 percent for those well owners in the Edwards Aquifer in Bell County, according to a statement released Thursday.

The district implemented Stage 1 in May, but the current drought conditions have created an "unprecedented adverse effect on the recharge of the Trinity and Edwards Aquifers," the release stated.

Users are encouraged to follow these guidelines:

Limit watering of landscape to only once every five to seven days. Agriculture and horticulture operations are exempted from this measure but are encouraged to reduce watering by 30 percent.

Only water landscape at night between the hours of 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Wash vehicles only at car washes.

No washing of buildings, driveways, streets, patios or other outdoor surfaces except as required for human or animal health and safety needs, or for fire prevention.

No filling of ponds, lakes, tanks, reservoirs, swimming pools or other surface impoundments for holding water with a total capacity of more than 50,000 gallons, except for public water supply systems.

No filling of ponds, lakes, tanks, reservoirs, swimming pools or other surface impoundments with a total capacity of less than 50,000 gallons.

Keep swimming pools, landscape or decorative ponds and fountains covered to recirculate water and do not fill except to support aquatic life.

Water livestock in leak-proof troughs; pumping water into ponds is discouraged.

Water for dust control only when required by law.

Energy conservation tips

Turn off all unnecessary lights, appliances and electronic equipment.

When at home, close blinds and drapes that get direct sun, set air conditioning thermostats to 78 degrees or higher, and use fans in occupied rooms to feel cooler.

When away from home, set air conditioning thermostats to 85 degrees and turn off fans before leaving. Block the sun by closing blinds or drapes on windows that get direct sun.

Do not use dishwashers, washers, dryers, coffee makers, hair dryers or other home appliances during the peak hours of 3 to 7 p.m.

Avoid opening refrigerators or freezers more than necessary.

Use microwaves for cooking instead of an electric range or oven.

Set your pool pump to run in the early morning or evening instead of in the afternoon.

Source: Public Utility Commission's "Powerful Advice"

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