Thousands lose power in heat-related outage



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Posted on August 2, 2011 at 5:07 PM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 3 at 12:28 PM

DALLAS — The operator of the state's electric grid said it is purchasing electricity from Mexico and other states as record high temperatures force Texas to set new electricity consumption records.

Oncor said more than 6,000 customers lost electricity Tuesday evening when a substation failed in North Dallas.

Traffic signals went dark in intersections and air conditioners turned off in homes.

Oncor told News 8 that the problem is directly related to the excessive heat and added strain on the state's electrical grid.

"The high usage is causing people to use more electricity in order to stay safe and comfortable and it's making it harder for our equipment to cool off," said Catherine Cuellar, Oncor spokeswoman.


Hours earlier, The Electric Reliability Council of Texas initiated an Energy Emergency Alert Level 1 when reserves dropped below 2,300 megawatts, an ERCOT spokeswoman said.

"We are requesting that consumers and businesses reduce their electricity use during peak electricity hours from 3 to 7 p.m. today, particularly between 4 and 5 p.m. when we expect to hit another peak demand record," said Kent Saathoff, vice president of system planning and operations.

The emergency was declared over early Tuesday evening after the state set a new power consumption record of 67,729 megawatts, but another record is expected to be set on Wednesday as officials urged customers to conserve power whenever possible.

ERCOT is getting several hundred megawatts of reserve power from Mexico and surrounding states, he added. Saathoff said 800 megawatts of generation come from states east of the Rocky Mountains and an additional 200 megawatts are coming from Mexico.

One megawatt can power 200 homes.

"We’ve had record temperatures that has resulted in record electric load," Saathoff said.

ERCOT expected to set another record for electricity usage on Tuesday afternoon.

Saathoff characterized the shortage of reserves as concerning, but not yet critical.

ERCOT is still a couple of steps away from rolling brownouts, Saathoff said. Even if more generation goes offline, ERCOT would still have to use its 2,000 megawatts of reserves before asking utilities to turn off power to their industrial customers.

On Tuesday afternoon, ERCOT said about 3,000 megawatts of generating capacity was offline. It's not heat-related, Saathoff said, and not unusual with 70,000 megawatts of total capacity.