AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Sunday evening, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas announced it would be asking Texans to voluntarily conserve energy on Monday during peak usage hours, between 2:00 and 8:00 p.m.
This is considered a “conservation appeal,” not yet an emergency situation. There are several emergency alert levels, and ERCOT told KXAN Monday morning it does not expect to get to the highest level with mandated rolling blackouts.
“At this time, we do not anticipate that happening. We are not in an emergency situation at this time. Our control room officially issued a watch, but we are not in an emergency/Energy Emergency Alert status. We have asked for a voluntary reduction of use at this time,” an ERCOT spokesperson said Monday.
According to ERCOT’s website, we are still in the “conservation alert” section, which is one step above “normal” grid conditions and one below the first emergency alert level.
ERCOT told KXAN Texans ‘took action’ Monday afternoon, and when the 2:00 conservation appeal went into effect, 500 MW of demand dropped from the grid. That’s about enough power for 100,000 homes.
In Energy Emergency Level 1, conservation is considered to be critical. We reach this stage when operating reserves drop below 2,300 megawatts (MW) and are not expected to recover within 30 minutes.
The actions that follow this alert include importing supply from neighboring electric grids, if available, up to around 1,200 MW, and asking commercial/small industrial customers who are paid to reduce their power during emergencies to do so.
Emergency Level 2 is triggered when reserves are less than 1,750 MW and are not expected to recover within 30 minutes. At this point, ERCOT can reduce demand on the system by interrupting power from large industrial customers who have contractually agreed to have their electricity turned off during an emergency.
The final level is Emergency Level 3, when reserves drop below 1,430 MW. If operating reserves then drop below 1,000 MW and are not expected to recover within 30 minutes and/or the grid’s frequency level cannot be maintained at 60 Hz, then ERCOT will implement “controlled outages,” also known as rolling blackouts.
“Controlled outages are electric service interruptions, ordered by ERCOT. Implemented by local utilities, these controlled outages quickly reduce electric demand and prevent an uncontrolled system-wide outage. They are used as a last resort to bring operating reserves back to a safe level and protect the integrity of the grid by maintaining system frequency,” ERCOT’s summer 2022 Energy Emergency Alert Overview stated.
That overview also stated ERCOT has initiated these controlled outages four times in its operating history. Those happened on Dec. 22, 1989, April 17, 2006, Feb. 2, 2011 and the 2021 February winter storm (Feb. 15-18, 2021).
As a reminder, local outages are still possible in this extreme heat. That could include a tree branch falling on a transmission line or a car crashing into a pole. Local outages do not indicate greater grid issues. Be sure to contact your local power provider if your power does go out.