ERCOT is appealing to Texans to observe voluntary energy conservation for the remainder of today and through tomorrow morning

ERCOT asks folks to set their thermostats no higher than 68 degrees

On March 2nd, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the Texas electric grid operator, issued a watch due to the strong arctic front that made its way into Texas and through the ERCOT system.  ERCOT is experiencing resource and transmission issues and is appealing to Texas customers to continue limiting their electric use as much as possible through 9 a.m. Tuesday, March 4, as these late winter weather conditions continue.

Power demand at ERCOT exceeded the previous March record of 43,033 MW every hour since 5 p.m. Sunday, March 2.  ERCOT’s Report on the Capacity, Demand, and Reserves for 2013 shows a projected firm load forecast for winter 2014 of 53,742 MW, with operational generation of 72,476 (assuming there is not a sudden loss of generation during a winter event) with potential resources of 80,164.  Of course, some units are down for scheduled maintenance so the potential resources and operational generation can be significantly lower at any given time and if there is sudden loss of generation as the state experienced in early February 2011, the state could experience rolling blackouts.

On February 2nd in 2011, ERCOT declared an energy emergency after unusually frigid weather unexpectantly shut down numerous power generators that produced 7,000 megawatts, about 8 percent of the installed capacity.  That day, Texas imposed statewide rolling blackouts for only the second time in over two decades. Texans across the state were frustrated and cold, many initially blaming wind energy for the loss of power, but in fact, wind was performing as expected.  It was coal and gas plants that destabilized the grid that day, but because ERCOT does not release information for 30 days after an outage about who is to blame, renewables were the scapegoat.  So if we go into rolling blackouts, wait for thirty days before you start blaming one power source over others.

Concerned About Rolling Blackouts? There’s an app for that!

Because of the 2011 heat wave and drought, ERCOT introduced an app for smartphones intended to alert Texas users about emergencies to the electric grid that could trigger rolling blackouts.  This alert system would urge consumers to conserve energy during those times.

In the midst of the record breaking heat in the summer of 2011, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas called on Texans to conserve when power generators weren’t able to keep up with extreme demand on several days. That conservation helped ERCOT avoid rolling outages. The new app will notify users of Apple and Android devices when the grid operator needs people to cut back usage to avoid blackouts.

iPhone, iPad and Android users can find the free ERCOT Energy Saver app by searching for ERCOT in the Apple and Google app stores, or you can link to the app below.

ERCOT will also use traditional methods of alerting the public about grid emergencies, but for the tech obsessed – this is an option.  As for me, armed with my smart thermostat, its smartphone app and the ERCOT app, I stand ready to do my part this winter.