Texas’ energy grid, which failed spectacularly over the winter during a stretch of historically cold weather, will be put to the test again this weekend, as temperatures across much of the state are forecast to be in the upper 90s. Despite assurances from Gov. Greg Abbott that “everything that needed to be done was done to fix the power grid in Texas,” earlier this week the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) urged customers to adjust thermostats to 78 degrees or higher and cut back on electricity use for several days.
Texas residents with smart thermostats are eligible for a number of programs, sweepstakes, and discounts which effectively allow energy providers to adjust their thermostats remotely during periods of high energy demand. Known as demand-response programs, some Texans were taken by surprise this week, as their thermostats were turned up without any action from them.
But that’s the way these Seasonal Savers programs, typically offered via utility companies across the country, are intended to work. Nest owners can also opt-in to Seasonal Savings directly via Google, Nest’s parent company, even if their local utility isn’t participating in such a program. Raising or lowering thermostats by a few degrees, can, in theory, reduce the strain on the energy grid and prevent the need for rolling blackouts.
In Texas, according to news station KHOU, customers enrolled in the Smart Savers program in exchange for a sweepstakes entry. Some companies offer discounts or rebates on smart thermostat purchases, or discounts on their electric bills. And, you can still adjust your thermostat manually if a remote adjustment is too high or too low for your comfort. You may end up playing a cat-and-mouse game with the remote controller, however, which could re-adjust the temperature as long as the high demand period persists.