State Watch

O’Rourke hits Abbott over request for Texans to cut energy use amid heat wave

Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke knocked Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Sunday night after the state’s grid operator appealed to Texans to “voluntarily conserve electricity” during a statewide heat wave on Monday.

“The governor of the 9th largest economy on earth — the energy capital of the world — can’t guarantee the power will stay on tomorrow,” O’Rourke said in a Tweet. “We need change.”

The “conservation appeal” issued Monday by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) said no major outages were expected, but asked people to consider reducing electricity use from 2-8 p.m. local time. ERCOT cited “record high electric demand” during the heat wave and low wind to power turbines as “driving the need for this important action by customers.” 

ERCOT urged Texans to turn down their thermostats and hold off on using energy-guzzling appliances or pool pumps during the six hour period.

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The grid operator made a similar request in May, after six power plants shut down during a heat wave, The Texas Tribune reported.

Record summer temperatures in the state are putting unprecedented strain on the power grid, said Renae Eze, Abbott’s press secretary and senior communications advisor.

“Since May, Texas has set and broken power demand records 26 times without any systemwide issues or disruptions for the more than 26 million Texans served by the electric grid,” Eze said, adding that the grid has withstood these strains “in large part because of the reforms passed last session and the increase in power generation by more than 15% over last year.”

ERCOT’s appeal for voluntary conservation is “one of the many tools at their disposal to ensure enough power keeps flowing,” Eze said. “And each time there’s a call for conservation, Texans step up and do their part to help by reducing some of the demand.”

“We can’t rely on the grid when it’s hot. We can’t rely on the grid when it’s cold. We can’t rely on Greg Abbott. It’s time to vote him out and fix the grid,” O’Rourke wrote on Twitter on Monday.

O’Rourke won the Texas Democratic primary in March and will face Abbott in the general election in November. Recent polling from the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin shows Abbott leading O’Rourke by a 6-point margin. 

The former congressman has repeatedly used the Lone Star State’s energy grid as a talking point on the campaign trail: in February, O’Rourke drove a truck across Texas to bring attention to grid-related issues.

And in 2021, he was a fierce critic of Abbott and other lawmakers for a major grid outage that left thousands of Texans without power for days amid a massive winter storm.

“We now know that the Texas government’s repeated failure to modernize our energy systems killed over 700 Texans in February’s winter storm,” O’Rourke wrote at the time.

Texas Democrat Julián Castro, who was in the ring with O’Rourke as a 2020 presidential hopeful, posted a Dallas Morning News headline Monday about blackout preparations in light of the ERCOT appeal.

“Texas life these days. Thanks @GregAbbott_TX,” he wrote.

This story was updated at 5:25 p.m.

Tags beto o'rourke Beto O'Rourke Energy Greg Abbott Greg Abbott Julian Castro power grid power outage Texas
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