World news – The Texas network operator warns of possible power outages as the winter storm increases the demand for electricity


Power lines in Del Valle. Electricity demand is expected to hit a record during a nationwide winter storm.

Photo credit: Eddie Gaspar / The Texas Tribune

The nonprofit that operates the Texas power grid warned Sunday that it could potentially be forced to roll out the state on Monday and Tuesday as a severe winter storm causes record temperatures and creates massive demand for electricity / p> Electricity reserves in the state were stable on Sunday afternoon, but the Texas Electric Reliability Council expects emergency operations to be performed from Sunday evening to Tuesday morning, said Dan Woodfin, senior director of system operations at ERCOT.

 » During this unprecedented cold weather event across the state, electricity demands are expected to exceed our previous winter record in January 2018 by up to 10,000 megawatts, « said Woodfin. « In fact, the current forecast is that Monday and Tuesday peak demand will reach or exceed our summer peak demand of 74,820 megawatts. »

Texans get their power from companies, cooperatives or cities, but ERCOT is working with these utilities to help control the flow of electricity to more than 90% of the state.

When demand approaches capacity, ERCOT can declare a level 1, 2 or 3 emergency energy alert that allows the council to use additional resources, to respond to the demand. According to ERCOT’s warning steps, the organization can import electricity from other regions, request additional electricity from transmission companies, and release generating reserves as part of these warnings.

Temporary blackouts are a last resort and would generally only occur when other resources were exhausted. Woodfin said outages were more likely to happen on Monday and Tuesday, but « there is certainly a possibility » that things could change and they could occur on Sunday evening.

« If the additional resources available during an EEA are always not yet sufficient to balance generation and load, and we still do not have enough resources to meet demand, we may have to implement so-called rotating outages … so that we have enough resources to cover what is left ” Woodfin said.

Outages typically last 10 to 45 minutes in residential areas and small businesses. However, the exact response will vary depending on the transmission company as per ERCOT’s Emergency Alert protocols. In its history, ERCOT has only initiated three system-wide rotating failures. The most recent was on February 2, 2011, more than 10 years ago in response to a snowstorm that struck the state.

« We are seeing record-breaking electricity demands due to the extremely cold temperatures in Texas, » said Bill Magness, President and CEO from ERCOT, in a press release on Sunday. « At the same time, we are dealing with a higher value. » – Normal generation outages due to frozen wind turbines and limited natural gas supply to the generating units. We urge Texans to take some simple and safe steps to reduce their energy consumption during this time. « 

The National Weather Service had issued a winter storm warning for every county in the state starting Sunday afternoon. In areas across the state, teenage temperatures, strong winds, and varying degrees of freezing rain and snow are expected by Monday evening.

 » The system could put significant strain on the region’s infrastructure and cripple travel, « the National Weather Service said on an alarm Sunday for south-central Texas. » The coldest temperatures since 1989 will affect the region. Wind chill indices could be will drop to 15 below zero to near zero tonight. « 

In response to the storm, Governor Greg Abbott issued a state-wide disaster statement for all 254 counties in the state on Friday and said during a press conference on Saturday that he would be soliciting a federal emergency statement He also set up the Texan Ministry of Transport, the Texan Ministeri for Public Safety, the Texas Department of Military and other agencies to help with the storm response.

ERCOT urges households and businesses to reduce their electricity consumption by Tuesday. According to a press release from ERCOT, Texans can reduce their electricity consumption by turning their thermostats below 68 degrees, unplugging lights and appliances, and avoiding the use of large appliances like ovens and washing machines.

« The lowest temperatures in Texas in decades require a joint Response across the state, from homes to factories, « DeAnn Walker, chairman of the Texas Public Utility Commission, said in the press release. « In addition to the tools ERCOT uses to maintain the reliability of the network, the maintenance of common sense also plays a crucial role in meeting this challenge for our state. »

In addition to saving energy, state officials keep Texans because of the dangerous driving conditions that caused by ice and sleet, strongly discourage driving on roads. In some areas, officials have said the roads are impassable and road conditions are expected to deteriorate further if the storm in the state worsens.

« Preparations to protect lives and property should be finalized, » wrote the National Weather Service on an Alarm Sunday for parts of Southeast Texas. “Prepare for power outages and have non-perishable food and water ready. Do not travel unless it is an emergency. If you do need to travel, keep an extra blanket, flashlight, groceries and water in your vehicle in case you get stranded. « 

Disclosure: The Texas Public Utility Commission was a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a non-profit, impartial news organization funded in part by donations from members, foundations, and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the journalism of the Tribune. A full list can be found here.


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