Posts Tagged ‘rolling blackouts’

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.


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Senator Troy Fraser, the chair of Senate Natural Resources Committee, warned the major electric generation companies this afternoon that unless they move swiftly to shore up their power plants against extreme weather, they can expect more regulations from state government.

Fraser said he would prefer free market solutions, but is prepared to impose new regulations, letting everyone in the room know that they were going to be leaning on the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the Public Utility Commission (PUC) and the Railroad Commission, but clearly directing his remarks at the top executives of Luminant, NRG Texas and Direct Energy, who were there to testify as a panel during the hearing.

The following is Public Citizen’s testimony at today’s Senate (Business and Commerce and Natural Resources) hearing on the rolling blackouts. Public Citizen’s was the only public testimony given today, following the sea of invited testimony from agencies, retail electric providers, and electric generation companies.  If you want to watch the archived video of the hearing, click here. (more…)

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Loren Steffy, the Houston Chronicle‘s business columnist writes this week about why the lights went out.

Loren Steffy, Houston Chronicle

We are left with an electricity market that has failed at both ends. Leaving our power supply dependent on the whims of that market means that last week probably won’t be the last time it leaves us in the dark.

Click here to read Loren’s blog.

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ERCOT has moved their regularly scheduled board meeting up from Tuesday to Monday, February 14th to allow for a special 2 hour time to take up a review of February 2, 2011 Energy Emergency Alert (EEA) Event. (more…)

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The Texas Senate Committee on Business and Commerce will convene in a joint hearing with the Senate Committee on Natural Resources at 8:30 a.m. on February 15, 2011, in the Senate Chamber.  The purpose of the hearing is to receive updates on the power outages of February 2nd through 4th and to discuss the status, preparedness, and responsiveness of current operating procedures.  Invited and public testimony to be taken.

The hearing will begin with invited testimony divided up into 4 panels of witnesses.  The panel makeup is as follows:

Panel 1

  • Barry Smitherman, Chairman, Public Utility Commission of Texas
  • Trip Doggett, President and CEO, Electric Reliability Council of Texas
  • Michael Williams, Commissioner, Railroad Commission of Texas
  • Bryan Shaw, Chairman, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
  • Sheri Givens, Public Counsel, Office of Public Utility Counsel

 Panel 2

  • David Campbell, Chief Executive Office, Luminant
  • Ned Ross, Director, Government Affairs, Direct Energy
  • John Ragan, Regional President, NRG

Panel 3

  • Brenda J. Pulis, Senior Vice President of Operations, Oncor
  • Wade Smith, President and Chief Operating Officer, AEP Texas
  • Larry Weis, General Manager, Austin Energy

Panel 4

  • Dick Erskine, President, Atmos Pipeline Company
  • Scott Doyle, Division Vice President, Texas Operations, Centerpoint Energy
  • Steve Turk, Vice President of Operations, Southern Division, Chesapeake Energy

Following the invited testimony, the committees will take testimony from the public.  You may submit written testimony, please submit 24 copies with your name on each copy to the Committee staff at the hearing, and please provide an electronic copy at your earliest opportunity.   If you would like to speak during public testimony, please limit oral remarks to three minutes.  Only those providing oral testimony will be listed as witnesses on the record, but you can still submit written testimony even if you are unable to speak at the hearing.

Live Video will be available on the Senate website

Senate Business and Commerce Committee Members
Committee Clerk:


Kimberly Selinger

Sen. John Carona

Vice Chair: Sen. Chris Harris
Members: Sen. Kevin Eltife
  Sen. Craig Estes
  Sen. Mike Jackson
  Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr.
  Sen. Leticia Van de Putte
  Sen. Kirk Watson
  Sen. John Whitmire
 Senate Natural Resources Committee Members
Chair: Sen. Troy Fraser
Vice Chair: Sen. Craig Estes
Members: Sen. Bob Deuell
  Sen. Robert Duncan
  Sen. Kevin Eltife
  Sen. Glenn Hegar
  Sen. Juan Hinojosa
  Sen. Mike Jackson
  Sen. Robert Nichols
  Sen. Kel Seliger
  Sen. Carlos Uresti

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Yesterday, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said cold weather had knocked out about 50 of the 550 power plants in Texas, totaling 8,000 megawatts.  We can’t tell you which plants were down because that information is considered “confidential under market rules.”  According to ERCOT’s website, its market rules “are developed by participants from all aspects of the electricity industry” and reviewed by the Public Utility Commission. This coupled with an increase in demand caused the Electric Reliability Council of Texas to launch the longest period of planned outages in state history, affecting 1.4 million consumers before being halted mid-afternoon.

What we do know is wind energy played a major role in keeping the blackouts from becoming more severe. Between 5 and 7 am yesterday morning (the peak of the electricity shortage) wind was providing between 3,500 and 4,000 MW, roughly the amount it had been forecast and scheduled to provide. That is about 7% of the state’s total electricity demand at that time, or enough for about 3 million average homes. (more…)

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