ERCOT directs utilities to restore power to thousands, but millions of Texans still stuck without electricity

4 million homes, businesses reportedly without power in Texas on Tuesday morning

Update ( Tuesday 1 p.m. ):

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) directed local utilities to restore power to thousands of Texans who have been stuck in the dark and in freezing temperatures for hours.

ERCOT, which operates the state’s power grid, tweeted at 11:27 a.m. that it directed local utilities to restore 400,000 households and generation availability was steadily improving. ERCOT also tweeted it is restoring load as fast as it can in a stable manner.

Despite the increase in availability, millions of Texans still do not have power and went through the night in frigid cold.

As of 1 p.m. Tuesday, CPS Energy reported 728 outages that were affecting nearly 300,000 customers in the San Antonio area and Bexar County.

Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday also declared the reform of ERCOT as an emergency item this legislative session.

In declaring this item an emergency, Abbott is calling on the legislature to investigate ERCOT and ensure Texans never again experience power outages on the scale they have seen over the past several days.

“The Electric Reliability Council of Texas has been anything but reliable over the past 48 hours,” Abbott said. “Far too many Texans are without power and heat for their homes as our state faces freezing temperatures and severe winter weather. This is unacceptable. Reviewing the preparations and decisions by ERCOT is an emergency item so we can get a full picture of what caused this problem and find long-term solutions. I thank my partners in the House and Senate for acting quickly on this challenge, and I will work with them to enhance Texas’ electric grid and ensure that our state never experiences power outages like this again.”

Update ( Tuesday 11 a.m.):

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the state’s power grid, said Tuesday morning that the number of outages across the state remains high, but that it’s optimistic “that we will be able to reduce the number throughout the day.” Just after 9 a.m. Tuesday, the grid operator said on Twitter that additional wind, solar power and thermal power generators have indicated “that they expect to become available.”

“But, the amount we restore will depend on how much generation is actually able to come online,” ERCOT said.

The number of businesses and homes without power was reportedly around 4 million Tuesday morning. Temperatures across the state remained extremely low for Texas. It was in the teens in Houston and Austin and around 10 degrees in Dallas at around 9:45 a.m.

(Editor’s note: The Texas Tribune provided us with the information above.)

Update (5 p.m.): The Electric Reliability Council of Texas says that crews are beginning to restore some of the power lost due to the snowstorm.

As of 4 p.m., the council said in a news release that enough power had been restored to serve 500,000 households.

“ERCOT and Texas electric companies have been able to restore service to hundreds of thousands of households today, but we know there are many people who are still waiting,” said ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness. “It’s also important to remember that severe weather, mainly frigid temperatures, is expected to continue, so we’re not out of the woods.”

Still, Texas does not have nearly enough demand to support the state. Approximately 34,000 MW of power has been forced off the system during the winter storm, while only 2,500 MW were restored as of Monday afternoon.

Transmission owners have now been asked to shed approximately 14,000 MW of load, down from 16,500 MW earlier today, according to the news release.

Outages are likely to continue through Tuesday, according to the news release.

Update (11 a.m.): Rotating outages will continue through Monday and perhaps Tuesday, Electric Reliability Council of Texas Senior Director Dan Woodfin said in a media call Monday.

The arctic blast has led to an unprecedented demand power, all while some power sources have been knocked offline due to the freezing temperatures.

Between 7 and 8 p.m. Sunday, the state saw a new winter peak demand for 69,222 MW of power. Demand has stayed high since then, Woodfin said.

Woodfin explained that ERCOT deems how much power each regional transmission owner, like CPS Energy, needs to cut. Those transmission owners then decide where to cut power and how to rotate outages.

In certain situations, some outages cannot be rotated as often due to how much energy needs to be cut to keep the system stable, Woodfin said. Some residents are also experiencing longer outages due to equipment failure.

ERCOT officials plan to hold another update Monday afternoon.

Update (5 a.m.): The Electric Reliability Council of Texas has said that rotating outages are likely to last at least through the morning.

ERCOT said the blackouts may be initiated until the end of the winter weather emergency, which resulted in snow overnight in San Antonio.

“Every grid operator and every electric company is fighting to restore power right now,” ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness said in an update at 4:40 a.m. Monday.

ERCOT officials said about 10,500 MW of generation for customers — enough power to serve approximately two million homes — was lost at the highest point.

That was caused by tripped generating units, which became unavailable.

Now, about 30,000 MW of generation was forced off the system amid the outages.

The rotating outages began at 1:25 a.m.

Original (1:50 a.m): The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) has issued an Energy Emergency Alert (Level 3) for the state, meaning rotating outages are underway to reduce demand on the electric system.

“We urge Texans to put safety first during this time,” ERCOT said in a tweet early Monday morning.

ERCOT says traffic lights and other infrastructure may be without power temporarily.

ERCOT urged Texans to reduce their electricity use before sending out the Level 3 Energy Emergency Alert tweet. It had warned that rotating outages would be needed to protect the electric system.

Here’s how you can help reduce electricity use, according to ERCOT:

  • Set thermostats to 68 degrees while at home, or as low as comfortably tolerable.
  • Set ceiling fans to the winter setting by running them clockwise, to pull the warm air down.
  • Avoid using large appliances (i.e., ovens, washing machines, and dishwashers).
  • Ensure doors and windows are sealed properly. Any light through the door indicates a penetration of cold air coming into the home.
  • Turn off lights, computers, and other electronic devices whenever possible.

Click here or see the PDF below to learn more about ERCOT’s Energy Emergency Alert levels.

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