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Texas declares second power emergency in three days

An energy emergency that Texas’s grid operator was forced to declare on Thursday as an unrelenting heat wave threatened power shortages has ended.

While temperatures remained near 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) in some parts of Texas, the state’s electricity demand has begun to fall, and the region’s power reserves rebounded to more than 3,000 megawatts, according to the website of grid operator Electric Reliability Council of Texas. Earlier on Thursday, they had dwindled to about 2,000 megawatts, just 3% of total demand.

Wholesale power prices, which had surged by almost 44,000% to hit a $9,000 a megawatt-hour price cap for the second time this week, retreated to $7,927.92 at about 6:30 p.m. New York time.

Texas has been dealing with power price spikes and potential rolling blackouts for most of the week as a heat wave propelled electricity demand to record levels. It’s hitting just as the region is grappling with massive coal-fired power plant retirements that have shrunk its electricity reserves and made it more vulnerable to shortages.

“It has been five years since Ercot had to issue a similar call to conserve electric usage,” said DeAnn Walker, chairman of the state’s Public Utilities Commission. “This is an opportunity for every Texan to do their part to help.”

The thousands of megawatts of wind power that Texas has brought online in recent years did little to help. Wind farms, which now account for about a third of Texas’s capacity, slid on Thursday to less than 1,998 megawatts, the least since May. And more than 6,000 megawatts of mostly high-efficiency natural gas-fired generation have gone offline since yesterday, according to energy data provider Genscape.