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Your Guide to Texas Electricity Emergency Procedures

August 25, 2011

The first two weeks of August in Texas was a scorching blow to the Texas electricity grid, with significantly high temperatures from the hot summer forcing residents and establishments to use more electricity than what they were used to. The sudden increase in Texas electricity demand prompted the state grid operator, Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), to take immediate electricity emergency procedures in a bid to prevent a total blackout on the grid.

Aside from the record-high increases in consumer electricity demand, the scorching temperatures also forces up to 20 power plants to stop working, which is equivalent to 3,000 megawatts of Texas electricity capacity. Most of these plants are fossil-fuel fired plants, but some natural gas plants and at least one coal-fired plant were also affected with these unplanned outages. As temperatures continue with their hot roll, ERCOT has urged Texas residents as well as industrial electricity users to cut down on usage and prevent further loss of capacity for the grid. Industrial users and large establishments using Texas electricity have agreed to and are under contract to cut down on usage during emergency situations such as what occurred recently. Residents on the other hand the power to choose their energy options but are urged to practice energy conservation initiatives on their own.

A Background on Texas Electricity Emergency Procedures

To understand Texas Electricity Emergency procedures, it would be important to know the progressive series of steps followed by ERCOT during emergency situations like this. The first step is the Power Watch or Energy Emergency Alert Level 1 where the public is informed on the electricity emergency situation and are advised to implement energy conservation measures. If capacity continues to drop and the usage situation does not improve, ERCOT has no option but to initiate Energy Emergency Alert Level 2 or Power Warning. Here, ERCOT calls on large commercial and industrial Texas electricity users who have earlier agreed by contract to voluntary reduce load or be interrupted during energy emergencies.

If the situation calls for it and the capacity shortage continue to escalate even with voluntary responses to contract demands, ERCOT has no option but to initiate Energy Emergency Alert Level 3 or Power Emergency. In this scenario, power utilities will receive instruction from ERCOT to immediately conduct temporary outages on their local areas of distribution and reduce the overall demand on the grid. These temporary interruptions, or what is more commonly known as rolling or rotating outages, occur on different neighborhoods and will last from 15 minutes to as long as 45 minutes depending on the capacity situation. Each area has specific procedures for rotating outages and consumers should contact their Texas electricity companies and providers for more specific information.

How Can Texas Residents Contribute

Texas electricity emergencies are not sole responsibilities of the power grid operator, utility companies and large industrial corporations. Each Texas resident should take an active part and responding to these emergency situations by doing their part in conserving energy right in their own homes. The Texas Public Utility Commission has released conservation tips on their “Powerful Advice” initiatives. ERCOT and the PUC calls on residents to reduce use of Texas electricity between 3 to 7 pm by shutting down unnecessary lights and other electrical appliances – aside from other electricity conservation tips provided by these agencies.

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