AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) — Rolling blackouts are underway across Texas as the state experiences an energy emergency at the highest levels. These blackouts were expected to last 40 minutes or less but instead will now last longer than 40 minutes, according to Austin Energy.
Nearly 2.6 million customers in Texas were in the dark as of 8:30 a.m. CST according to the website PowerOutage.us, a utility tracking site.
Overnight Monday, ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, moved the Energy Emergency Alert to level three, the highest alert level for the state due to the record electric demand. ERCOT manages the state’s power grid and on Sunday evening it reported a new winter peak demand record.
Additionally, ERCOT said traffic lights and other infrastructure may be temporarily without power.
As severe winter weather conditions impact Texans in all areas of the state, energy providers are urging the public to curb their energy use to help protect the state’s power grid.
ERCOT has been calling on people and businesses across the state to reduce their energy use as much as possible from Sunday, Feb. 14 through Tuesday, Feb. 16.
ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness said Sunday that ERCOT is also seeing higher-than-normal generation outages due to frozen wind turbines and limited natural gas supplies.
“We are asking Texans to take some simple, safe steps to lower their energy use during this time,” Magness said.
Austin Energy explains that “rolling blackouts,” or rotating power outages, are temporary power outages that ERCOT puts in place when energy resources are not enough to meet energy demand.
Utilities will typically turn the power off in one section of the city for 10 to 40 minutes before restoring power and then turning the power off in a different section of the city, hence the “rolling” part of rolling blackouts. However, Austin Energy said at 3:30 a.m. that these winter storm outages will need to last longer than 40 minutes due to the unprecedented demand.
Austin Energy, Oncor, and all the other energy providers have to participate in the rolling blackouts that ERCOT directs since they are all part of the state’s interconnected power grid. Each utility is responsible for determining how to implement the required outages.
(Information from KXAN.com)