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You could qualify for a free portable AC unit in Houston's 'Beat the Heat' program

It's that time of year again in Houston. Whether you're at work or play, in the sun or in the shade, you're always looking for ways to cool off.

HOUSTON — Rising temperatures are especially tough and dangerous for people without air conditioning.

The city of Houston, Harris County leaders and Reliant representatives have  announced the launch of the 16th annual "Beat the Heat" program to get portable air conditioning units to the city's vulnerable population. Cooling centers are also part of the plan, but will only open during heat emergencies and with proper distancing and sanitization practices in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


RELATED: 11 tips to keep your pets safe from the heat this summer

Mayor Sylvester Turner is urging residents to conserve energy when they can. He said he's worried that new energy reform laws will not be enough to prevent shortages this summer.

No matter what you're doing this summer in Houston, you'll be looking for spots to cool off. Neeka and Sterling Davis like to be outside.

“We love to take our kids to the pool to swim, and our dog too,” Neeka said. “We love to go get fro-yo with our boys, too. We love frozen yogurt.”

RELATED: Summer survival guide: What to do if you get heat exhaustion or heat stroke

But, like so many others in the city, they also love to turn on the air conditioning.

"Sixty-nine degrees. I like it freezing in there,” Sterling said.

It's a necessity that Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia said many of his constituents have trouble paying for.

“If not for Reliant, those residents would not be able to have an air conditioner,” Garcia said.

RELATED: Here's how Houstonians can apply for a free portable AC unit to stay cool this summer

Reliant is donating $70,000 to pay for portable air conditioning units.

“Our customer care group is ramping up for the summer because you can imagine the call volume we see in the summer,” Reliant Vice President of Customer Care and Retention Bill Clayton said.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas runs the state's power grid. It's expecting record electric demand this summer but also said it expects to be able to serve customer demands "under normal operating conditions."

Energy regulators are warning that Texas is at an elevated risk for power shortages this summer.

"We’ve got August coming up, and ERCOT has pointed out several scenarios under which we will have blackouts across the state," KHOU 11 energy expert Ed Hirs said.

Turner said the two recently passed energy reform laws don't add capacity, require storage or let the Texas power grid tie into others.

“I think that’s why it’s going to be very important for the Public Utility Commission and ERCOT to provide us information as quickly as possible ahead of time,” Turner said.

If you need help paying your power bill, call 211.

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