CPS Energy: Most customers subject to rotating outages as winter weather continues

Demand for power surpassed summer peak demand, officials say

SAN ANTONIO – Roughly two-thirds of CPS Energy grids will continue to have rotating outages for the next 24 to 48 hours due to an unprecedented demand amid freezing conditions that are expected to persist for the next few days, officials said Monday.

CPS Energy updated media outlets Monday afternoon, hours after Electric Reliability Council of Texas said the rotating outages will continue throughout the state through Tuesday.

Paula Gold-Williams, CPS Energy president and CEO, said the goal is to try and rotate outages in 15-minute increments. But with high demand, combined with a reduced ability to generate power due to the freeze, she acknowledged that results have not been consistent.

Some customers have reported longer outages, with power coming back only for a few minutes at a time.

“We’re taking in all the information that we can and trying to problem-solve,” Gold-Williams said.

The bulk of the outages San Antonio residents are experiencing are due to the rotations. Some customers may be out of power longer due to other factors like equipment failure, Gold-Williams said. Roughly a third of the grid will continue to have power because certain circuits power critical services, like a hospital or police department.

Typically, CPS Energy sees peak energy demand in the summer when the hottest temperatures set in. But this ice storm has surpassed the demand seen in the summer, Gold-Williams said.

Gold-Williams said crews are working around the clock to address the issues, but she said this scenario is a “very complex process.”

Without the rolling blackouts, entire grids would be knocked offline, leaving them without power indefinitely, Gold-Williams said.

Officials are asking customers to continue conserving energy when they do have power in an effort to stabilize the system quicker.

Late Monday night, Gold-Williams issued the following statement:

“We hope to see improvements overnight, but we are facing unprecedented challenges. Our focus tonight is to restore the consistency of the grid. Conservation is important, and we ask our community to continue to do all they can to limit electric and natural gas energy use. We understand that this is a big ask of our customers and sincerely apologize for the problems that this is causing them.  Our customers are our neighbors, families and friends, and we are doing everything we can to make sure we work to make things better for everyone.”

“Rotating outages began across the state around 1:30 a.m. on Monday morning. Utility system operators are making real-time decisions with real-time information coming from ERCOT, and these decisions are made in a nondiscriminatory manner. While increasingly difficult to accommodate, utilities work to preserve power for critical functions (i.e., hospitals, governmental entities, etc.) to limit the impact on those facilities. It is through this outage management process, executed over the same timeframe in major cities across the state, that the grid can and must be re-stabilized.

“Please know that all participants in the ERCOT grid are taking the same measures. The extreme weather has driven record-breaking energy use across the state. With energy reductions driven by outage management, CPS Energy used more than 4,954 MW yesterday, which was a winter record. If the outages had not been proactively managed thus far, winter energy demand would have exceeded summer maximums for the first time in CPS Energy’s history.

To assist with keeping residents off the road and safe, CPS Energy’s walk-in centers will be closed on Tuesday, February 16, 2021. Additionally, Braunig and Calaveras parks and lakes are closed until further notice.”

The utility company offered the following tips for customers to keep warm and conserve power:

  • Stay warm by dressing in layers of loose-fitting clothing instead of a single heavy layer.
  • Wear a hat, even indoors. Keeping your head warm helps keep your body warm.
  • Wear gloves or mittens to keep hands warm, and wear a scarf to keep your neck warm.
  • Use towels to block drafts around doors and windows.
  • Use extreme care when using gasoline-powered generators. Do not operate a generator inside your home or other inhabited building. Only operate generators outdoors, and be sure the exhaust is facing away from your home.
  • Do not use camping stoves or outdoor grills indoors, not even in your garage. These can cause carbon monoxide to build up in your home and can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Conserve power on your mobile phone in case of emergency. Some battery-saving tips include:
    • Turn down the screen light
    • Turn off Bluetooth
    • Close all unused applications
    • If possible, use text to communicate instead of making a call
    • If you have multiple mobile phones in the household, keep one phone on for emergency updates and turn the others off to preserve battery life.
  • Unplug sensitive equipment during a power outage, including televisions, computers, and other electronics which helps protect against any voltage irregularities that may occur as power is restored.
  • If you have medication that requires refrigeration, please check with your pharmacist for instructions on storage during an extended power outage.
  • If you have a garage door opener, review the instructions for manually opening the garage door.
  • Be extra cautious when outdoors in snowy conditions. Downed power lines can be hidden by snow, trees, or other debris. Always assume a downed power line is live. If you see a downed power line, stay away and call us immediately at 210-353-4357 (HELP).

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