ERCOT hopes to avoid rolling outages

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas has asked local utilities to implement rolling outages to take the load off of power plants.

February 3, 2011 9:26:44 AM PST
ERCOT says as of 11am, there's still no need for rolling outages, but that's subject to change. ERCOT says they'll closely monitor the grid, particularly tonight, which is when the storm is forecast to get to southeast Texas.

The rolling blackouts are over -- for now -- as The Electric Reliability Council of Texas says there is now enough power supply to meet demand in the state. But for at least seven hours Wednesday that wasn't the case.

So to keep the entire system from failing, hundreds of thousands of people were put in the dark at a time. In many cases, again and again. ERCOT says there was no other choice.

There was an increased demand to heat Texas homes, but according to the lieutenant governor it wasn't demand that shut the system, but frozen pipes at power plants causing the shutdown and forcing Texans to sit in the dark for an hour at a time -- sometimes on and off all day.

Schools in area school districts were included in the power outage earlier Wednesday.

CenterPoint is asking everyone to turn down your heaters to 68 degrees or lower, limit use of appliances to those needed most, try to limit opening and closing refrigerators, freezers and doors.

On Wednesday morning, ERCOT told utilities state-wide to begin rotating outages to compensate for a generation shortage due to numerous plant trips that occurred because of the extreme weather. At 1pm, ERCOT cancelled their directive to CenterPoint Energy to curtail delivery of power in its greater Houston service territory.

According to ERCOT, rotating outages are controlled, temporary interruptions of electric service, typically lasting 10-45 minutes per neighborhood. The locations and durations are determined by the local utilities. Critical need customers, such as hospitals and nursing homes, are generally not included.

CenterPoint Energy also is installing new smartmeters at homes in the greater Houston area to pinpoint homes where medical devices are depended on and avoid cutting power to homes of people in life-and-death situations.

On Wednesday afternoon, ERCOT urged all consumers who can reduce their energy consumption to do so at this time. They recommended cutting usage, including these steps:

  • Limit electricity usage to only that consumption which is absolutely necessary. Turn off all unnecessary lights, appliances, and electronic equipment.
  • Businesses should minimize the use of electric lighting and electricity-consuming equipment as much as possible.
  • Large consumers of electricity should consider shutting down or reducing non-essential production processes.
They also advised drivers to minimize unnecessary travel as traffic signals may go out of service resulting in traffic jams.

According to ERCOT, some customers may experience longer outages if power surges cause equipment failure during the restoration process. Customers can minimize power surges by turning off appliances, lights and other equipment, except for one task light to determine when power has been restored.

Centerpoint Energy notified customers via email that they would implement 15-30 minute systematic outages.

The ERCOT region includes Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Austin, Corpus Christi, Abilene and the Rio Grande Valley. It does not include the El Paso area, the Texas Panhandle, Northeast Texas (Longview, Marshall and Texarkana), and Southeast Texas (Beaumont, Port Arthur, and the Woodlands).

Entergy Texas is not a member of ERCOT and is not subject to the intrastate grid's call for rolling blackouts. Entergy has no plans to institute rolling blackouts as a result of the current severe winter weather event.