ERCOT ROTATING OUTAGES: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Why are we having to experience rotating outages?
We are conducting rotating outages to comply with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT)’s demand for load reduction to help stabilize the state’s power grid.
Why does the grid need to be stabilized? What happened?
The simple answer is that there is not enough electricity being generated across Texas to supply the state. More than 70 generating units have tripped offline due to unprecedented sub-freezing conditions across the entire state. These generation issues span across all types of electricity generation. Until these facilities thaw and can begin producing power again, we will experience mandated outages. Right now, the state is short of electricity for millions of people.
The lack of electricity is also coupled with record-breaking electricity demand in the state. With the entire state falling below freezing, the load from heating and everything else is much higher than Texas typically experiences this time of year. This is not something ERCOT anticipated when modeling how much electricity they would need through the winter months. ERCOT, in their role to keep the grid reliable, cannot let the demand for electricity be greater than the supply of power available. If that were to happen, the state would experience a statewide blackout. It could damage the grid to the point of a rebuild. Instead of an uncomfortable few days without power, we could experience an uncomfortable few weeks.
To prevent that from happening, ERCOT has issued these mandated outages. All utilities in the state must comply.
When should I expect a rotating outage and for how long?
In WCEC’s territory, rotating outages have on average lasted 3-6 hours cycling every 1-3 hours. Times have varied depending on how much load STEC is required to shed and the ability to re-energize circuits.
How do we know if it is a rotating outage or an actual outage?
We are asking members to ONLY report outages that have lasted longer than four hours UNLESS you are aware of damage to our lines or equipment in your area. Example of damage includes downed power lines, tree limbs/debris on power lines, a loud bang or pop before the outage, etc.
Who is controlling the outages?
ERCOT has directed STEC (and all utilities across the state) to reduce a certain amount of load from its system to keep the entire state grid operational. STEC controls these outages directly by turning the power on and off at their substations. We have had regular contact and are actively working with STEC to improve this process as much as possible for our members.
Are all members experiencing these rotating outages?
There are very few circuits that have been excluded from the rotating outages across WCEC’s territory. These circuits support critical infrastructure loads. For example, those circuits may serve a healthcare facility, nursing home, schools identified as potential shelters, convenience stores, gas pipelines, pumping stations, etc. Many of these circuits are only excluded for certain times and/or during generator repairs only.
Why is a specific time schedule not being kept for the rotation?
Several issues impact the rotation timing. First is the amount of demand being required to maintain the grid. Notification is provided to STEC with minutes to respond as generation capacity and demand requirements change. Second, if WCEC has line crews out working on a circuit, it may need to be energized or de-energized depending upon the issue impacting the circuit.
How long will rotating outages continue?
The latest indications from ERCOT suggest that rotating outages will continue through Wednesday, and Thursday possibly into Friday. Members should prepare themselves for the load shedding event to continue as the cold weather lingers across the ERCOT region and power generation is lacking to meet the demand.
What can members do to help?
We cannot stress enough the importance of conservation at this time. A few simple steps can help bring supply and demand into balance and prevent bigger outages:
• Lower thermostat setting to 68 degrees or lower. During an outage, turn off and/or unplug your heating system.
• Turn off and unplug non-essential lights, appliances, and electronics. Avoid using large appliances (i.e., ovens, washing machines, dryers etc.).
Who can we contact to help prevent a re-occurrence in the future?
WCEC encourages our members to contact their State and National legislators and policymakers. This is a generation issue in the state of Texas that is currently being held together by transmission and distribution solutions. The lack of baseload generation available in a growing state is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. We have been voicing these concerns to our legislators for years and have routinely shared concerns in the Texas Co-op Power magazine.