AUSTIN, Texas - FOX 7 Austin has confirmed that close to 40% of Austin residents are without power amid a winter storm that hit Central Texas.
Officials say that due to the severity of the weather and condition of the electric grid that outages are lasting longer than the expected duration.
Customers experiencing an ERCOT-directed outage will remain out until conditions improve to serve critical loads and protect the overall reliability of the grid.
"The situation continues to worsen across Texas and here in Austin," said Austin Energy General Manager Jackie Sargent in a news release. "Austin Energy implemented required outages early Monday morning, doing our part to help stabilize the ERCOT grid. The required outages are more extensive than anyone expected and do not allow us to bring affected customers back online at this time.
Conservation is still needed by those who have power. Customers are urged to keep electric use to only what is essential for heating and safety.
ERCOT or the Electric Reliability Council of Texas declared an Energy Emergency Alert Level 3 just before 1:30 Monday morning.
ERCOT said electric demand is very high and supplies cannot keep up. The operator of Texas' power grid said reserves dropped below 1,000 MW and are not expected to recover within 30 minutes. ERCOT ordered transmission companies to reduce demand on the system.
According to ERCOT, rotating outages primarily affect residential neighborhoods and small businesses. They are typically limited to 10 to 45 minutes before being rotated to another location.
ERCOT is urging all Texans to conserve energy through Tuesday. The agency asks customers to take the following steps:
- Turn down thermostats to 68 degrees
- Close shades and blinds to reduce the amount of heat lost through windows
- Turn off and unplug non-essential lights and appliances
- Avoid using large appliances
- Businesses should minimize the use of electric lighting and electricity-consuming equipment as much as possible
- Large consumers of energy should consider shutting down or reducing non-essential production processes
Austin Energy issued this update Thursday afternoon:
"Why We Can’t Rotate Outages:
The large amount of electricity demand we’ve had to reduce has impacted our ability to rotate outages among customers and some of our customers have been without power since early Monday morning. In normal emergencies, we rotate outages throughout our service area. Unfortunately, we are unable to rotate outages at this time because there are no other available non-critical load circuits to put into outage rotation. The bottom line is that electric load must be reduced statewide in order to fully restore service across the ERCOT grid, and Austin Energy is following ERCOT’s direction.
Record Energy Use Across Texas:
This emergency stems from the ongoing, prolonged and widespread frigid weather occurring across the state. This is causing the state-wide electric system — managed by ERCOT — to be strained by high demand and low operating reserves. Operating reserves are low when the capacity of available resources, such as power plants, only slightly exceeds anticipated customer demand across the ERCOT system. An emergency can also be caused by a sudden drop in generation, due to one or more sudden and unplanned power plant outages caused by extreme weather such as a severe freeze.
When Power Will be Restored:
ERCOT has stated outages may last through tomorrow afternoon. ERCOT will let utilities, including Austin Energy, know when we can start restoring power to customers. We will follow their guidance and will operate safely to restore as many customers as we can, being mindful of outage duration.However, this is an ongoing weather emergency. The ice and road conditions are still a factor and the safety of our crews and customers is top of mind.
Cold Load Pickup:
When power is restored, circuits can become overloaded because of lights, electronics and thermostats left on prior to the outage. This is called cold load pickup and can cause a second outage. Customers currently without power can help us avoid cold load pickup by:
- Turning off their thermostats.
- Turning off or unplugging any fixtures or appliances.
- Only leaving on one light to indicate when the power is back on."