ERCOT warns of more rolling blackouts




Posted on February 10, 2011 at 6:58 AM

Updated Thursday, Feb 10 at 8:59 AM

DALLAS - The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the agency that oversees the state's power, says the energy grid is nearly maxed out.

The agency has warned consumers that if they don't conserve power this morning, rolling blackouts will likely happen once again.

"If there are rolling blackouts, then that is an emergency situation and we won't get much notice," said Megan Wright, a spokeswoman with Oncor. "We'll be required by ERCOT to start our emergency plan."

Oncor utility crews have been working to restore electricity to about 4,400 customers, mainly in West Texas and southern parts of the state.

As people wake up in the morning, they power on the lights, turn on their hairdryers and other electronic equipment as they get ready for the day. That's exactly what puts pressure on the already maxed out grid, ERCOT says.

[Rolling blackouts] are a last step to prevent the worst catastrophe, such as an uncontrolled statewide blackout that could take a very long time to get back on," Wright said.

Demand is expected to spike from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., which could place record-setting demand on the state's power grid. With temperatures in the teens, that has raised concerns that the grid could be in danger, spurring the possibility of rolling blackouts.

Just last week, rolling blackouts hit Texas without any warning during the winter storm and its aftermath. Businesses, homes and hospitals were impacted by the blackouts. Hospitals were forced to rely on backup generators and hold off on some elective surgeries.

Oncor says if the rolling blackouts do occur, hospitals will be exempt this time.

Last week's power woes were said to have happened due to problems at power plants, two of which had frozen pipes. As the state continues to investigate that incident, ERCOT says they hope consumers will cut back on their energy use.

"Every single person makes a difference," Wright said. "When you're looking at seven million Texans across Oncor service territory, if we all try to conserve electricity, we could bring down that demand."

Here is a list released by ERCOT giving tips on conserving power:

  • Keep your thermostat as low as is comfortable.
  • Turn off and unplug non-essential lights and appliances.
  • Avoid running large appliances such as washers, dryers and electric ovens during peak energy demand hours.
  • Close shades and blinds at night to reduce the amount of heat lost through windows.
  • 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.

Those experiencing outages can call Oncor at 1-888-313-4747.