Rolling blackouts: What you need to know about potential power issue

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Right now the demand for power is being met, but if conservation efforts alone don't work the state could face rolling blackouts and you would not get much time to prepare.

Three things are driving the record demand for power in Texas, the high temperatures, a growing population, and no new power plants to meet the demand.

Energy analyst Alan Lammey said, "As you have more and more folks pouring into the Lone Star State, guess what, you got to have to have power generation to meet that growth."

Lammey says if a power plant or two goes off line the state grid operator ERCOT could order rolling blackouts if demand outpaces the power supply.

"Once you get very hot weather and a large population and not enough generation to meet the demand. Hey, were in Texas it's 104 degrees outside," Lammey said.

Take a look at the map below, the red areas are the parts of town where power could be turned off if ERCOT orders rolling blackouts.

Areas in red are subject to rolling blackouts, but not all homes in all the red areas will be affected at the same time.

Not every home in red would be impacted all at once, it all depends on how much demand needs to be lowered.

Floyd LeBlanc, of Centerpoint Energy, said, "ERCOT would make that call without notice, so it's not possible to give consumers a notice."

LeBlanc says typically the power would not be turned off for long periods of time.

"If we don't protect the grid in an emergency we could have a four day outage across the state of Texas, we want to avoid that," he said. "In many cases the outages are 15 minutes to 45 minutes."

To keep rolling blackouts at bay, more than 8,000 home owners have agreed to let grid operators cut power to their homes. The voluntary program is run by power providers like Reliant Energy.

David Dzierski, of Centerpoint, said, "The key here is they are voluntary programs, so you only participate in them if you want to, we have a commercial program and a residential program."

The biggest thing you can do to help prevent rolling blackouts over the next couple of weeks, keep the air conditioning set at 78 or 80 degrees when you are not home.
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