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Rotating outages possible, energy conservation urged

Released by ERCOT:

Austin, Aug.4, 2011 -- Consumers and businesses are asked to reduce their electricity use during peak electricity hours from 3 to 7 p.m. today to avert the need for rotating outages.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, Inc. (ERCOT), system operator for the state's bulk transmission grid, initiated Energy Emergency Alert Level 2 at 2:26 p.m. today due to responsive reserves below 1,750 megawatts (MW). 

"Interruptible loads – large customers paid to be dropped in a level 2 emergency have been deployed," said Kent Saathoff, vice president of system planning and operations. 

"Capacity is expected to be very tight over the peak today – particularlybetween 4 and 5 p.m.  We are asking consumers and businesses to reduce their electricity use as much as they are able during peak electricity hours from 3 to 7 p.m.," Saathoff said.

Consumers can help by shutting off unnecessary lights and electrical appliances, minimizing the use of air conditioning and delaying laundry and other activities requiring electricity-consuming appliances until later in the evening.

Power Warnings are issued by the electric grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), when there is a high risk that rotating outages will be needed to reduce load.

The emergency procedures are a progressive series of steps that allow ERCOT to bring on uncommitted generation and power from other grids.  If the situation does not improve, ERCOT will first drop load resources (a market-based demand response program) and other resources under contract to be interrupted during an emergency.  Only as a last resort (Power Emergency) to avoid the risk of a complete blackout does ERCOT ask utilities to reduce demand by dropping load through rotating outages. 

Rotating outages are controlled, temporary interruptions of electrical service initiated by each utility when supplies of reserve power are exhausted.  Without this safety valve, generators would overload and begin shutting down to avoid damage, risking a domino effect of a region-wide outage.

The outages are typically limited to 15-45 minutes before being rotated to a different neighborhood.  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.

Consumers should contact the utility company/ transmission provider listed on their electric bill for information about power outages at their homes or business, or about rotating outage procedures for their area. 

Energy Emergency Alert Communications

Conservation Tips

Consumers can help by shutting off unnecessary lights and electrical appliances between 3 and 7 p.m., and delaying laundry and other activities requiring electricity-consuming appliances until later in the evening. Other conservation tips from thePublic Utility Commission's "Powerful Advice"  include:

  • Turn off all unnecessary lights, appliances, and electronic equipment.
  • When at home, close blinds and drapes that get direct sun, set air conditioning thermostats to 78 degrees or higher, and use fans in occupied rooms to feel cooler.
  • When away from home, set air conditioning thermostats to 85 degrees and turn all fans off before you leave. Block the sun by closing blinds or drapes on windows that will get direct sun.
  • Do not use your dishwasher, laundry equipment, hair dryers, coffee makers, or other home appliances during the peak hours of 3 to 7 p.m.
  • Avoid opening refrigerators or freezers more than necessary.
  • Use microwaves for cooking instead of an electric range or oven.
  • Set your pool pump to run in the early morning or evening instead of the afternoon.

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.

How to Track Electricity Demand

Consumer Assistance

Call Your Electric Utility for Information about Local Outages

ERCOT manages the state's high-voltage bulk electricity grid.  For questions about local outages at your home or business, or questions about rotating outage procedures for your neighborhood, contact the utility company or transmission provider listed on your electric bill.

American Electric Power - AEP

Austin Energy

Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative 

Brazos Electric Power Cooperative

Brownsville Public Utilities Board

Bryan Texas Utilities

CenterPoint Energy

College Station Utilities

CPS Energy – San Antonio

Denton Municipal Electric

Garland Power & Light

Guadalupe Valley Electric Cooperative

LCRA

Magic Valley Electric Cooperative

Nueces Electric Cooperative 

Oncor

Pedernales Electric Cooperative

Rayburn County Electric Cooperative

Sharyland Utilities

South Texas Electric Cooperative

Texas-New Mexico Power

 

ERCOT Region

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).  Region map

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