Rolling power outages in east Williamson County and beyond were set to end Tuesday, although more winter storms were on the way.
Shortly after 1 a.m. Monday, Feb. 15, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) issued an "Energy Emergency Alert 3" due to very high electricity demands. Supplies reportedly couldn’t keep up.
According to ERCOT, reserves had dropped below 1,000 MW and were not expected to recover within 30 minutes. As a result, ERCOT ordered transmission companies to reduce demand on the system.
"This is typically done through rotating outages, which are controlled, temporary interruptions of electric service," said ERCOT on its website. "This type of demand reduction is only used as a last resort to preserve the reliability of the electric system as a whole."
In these situations, each utility is required to lower the demand on its system based on its percentage of the historic ERCOT peak demand. While each utility is responsible for determining how to implement the required demand reduction, most utilities use rotating outages for this purpose.
Rotating outages primarily affect residential neighborhoods and small businesses and are typically limited to 10-45 minutes before being rotated to another location. However, as Monday drew on, Oncor announced the outages could be hours and later said it could be an unknown duration.
“The length of these controlled outages have been significantly extended due to the current emergency grid conditions and severe cold weather. These outages are taking place across the service territory, and ERCOT has said they could be required through Tuesday,” said Oncor on it’s newsfeed, The Wire. “We are asking all Oncor customers to be prepared to be without power for an extended period of time.”
Oncor added that the company is responding to outages directly caused by the winter storm. Oncor phone lines and reporting systems are said to be experiencing a record influx of inquiries as a result of the two events, which may prevent customers from getting into contact with one of our agents.
“Customers do not need to report their outages at this time. Our crews continue to make repairs from the storm so that when electric generation is available it can be delivered. We urge any customer who is experiencing a life threatening or emergency event to please call 911,” said Oncor. “We are doing everything possible to respond to each of these power emergency events. We remain in close coordination with ERCOT and we appreciate everyone’s patience as we protect the integrity of the Texas grid.”
In the meantime, the Public Utility Commission of Texas met in an emergency open meeting Monday night and directed ERCOT to modify pricing models to more accurately reflect the scarcity conditions in the market.
Power outage numbers fluctuated with blackout rotations, weather damage and repairs.
At 10 p.m. Monday, there were 250 electricity outages in east Williamson County leaving 20,790 residences or businesses without power. In the Taylor area specifically, 3,292 customers didn’t have power among 77 outages in zip code 76574. In addition to Taylor, the zip code includes or borders the communities of Circleville, Norman Crossing, Wuthrich Hill, Hoxie, Sandoval, Hare, Waterloo and Laneport.
Hutto’s zip code, 78634, had 138 outages and 15,613 customers affected by outages. Thrall and Noack’s zip code, 76578, had 234 customers without power with seven outages.
Zip code 76530 had 10 outages affecting 1,087 customers in Granger, Walburg and Friendship. Coupland and Beyersville residents had 564 customers affected with 18 outages in zip code 78615.