AMARILLO, Texas — Xcel Energy said on Tuesday it is getting systems ready for cold weather, nearly nine months after record-cold caused widespread outages in Texas. The outages impacted both the Southwest Power Pool and ERCOT or the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. Xcel is in SPP.
At the time of the outages — mid-February, 2021 — Xcel said the extreme cold was not normal.
Wes Reeves, spokesperson for Xcel Energy, said at the time, “We’ve had a real big spike in demand, which calls for a spike in power generation, and we’ve been limited, so that’s what causes the shortages.”
By all accounts, the impact was worse in ERCOT than in SPP. Texas passed reforms of ERCOT in June including a requirement for electricity providers on ERCOT to weatherize their equipment and improve communication during outages with an alert system.
The following is a press release from Xcel Energy:
Xcel Energy is prepared for cold weather and is reminding customers they can also take steps to maintain a high level of comfort while saving on monthly bills.
“Winter weather on the plains of Texas and New Mexico can present a host of challenges from extreme cold to high winds to ice and snow, and sometimes all of this at once,” said David Hudson, president, Xcel Energy – New Mexico, Texas. “We’ve spent a decade investing in system improvements that will stand up against extreme weather, and these investments proved their worth during last winter’s strongest storms. We’re ready for whatever winter brings and we want to provide everything customers need to stay comfortable and manage their energy costs.”
Xcel Energy has invested more than $3 billion in transmission line improvements since 2011 that have strengthened the grid and provided more options for moving power from neighboring states served by the Southwest Power Pool. Additionally, area power plants and wind farms were designed for cold weather and are continually being improved to withstand extreme temperatures. Winterization preparation reviews are conducted annually each fall at Xcel Energy’s Texas-New Mexico power plants, and new wind farms such as Sagamore in New Mexico and Hale in Texas were built with “cold weather packages” that that allow the turbines to run in subzero temperatures.
Xcel Energy owns and operates almost 8,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines and more than 16,000 miles of lower voltage distribution lines across the area. The company has invested millions in recent years in pole replacement and conductor wire upgrades that have hardened the grid against high winds and ice. And ongoing efforts to upgrade voltages in older neighborhoods to a company standard provide more options for Xcel Energy to reroute power for faster restoration in the event of weather-related outages.
Customers can ensure their homes and business are prepared for extreme temperatures by having their heating equipment checked ahead of winter and taking steps to make interior spaces more airtight by adding weather stripping around doors and windows. Customers can take advantage of Xcel Energy’s Home Energy Services program to have approved contractors inspect their property for drafts and make the necessary adjustments free of charge. Information on this program can be found online at xcelenergyefficiency.com.
Winter heating accounts for about half a typical customer’s monthly energy costs, so it’s possible to realize big savings in the winter if customers keep warm air from escaping to the outside and ensuring heating units don’t have to run as often.
Another important way to save on heating costs is to adjust the thermostat 7 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit from normal settings for eight hours a day. These adjustments are made easier by installing either a programmable or smart thermostat, both of which allow the customer to schedule thermostat adjustments. A smart thermostat offers the added benefit of allowing adjustments to be made remotely via a mobile app or the internet using a smart phone, tablet, or computer. Energy Star-certified smart thermostats can save up to 8% annually on heating and cooling costs, according to energystar.gov.
Should extreme cold come with ice and damaging winds, customers can be prepared to report outages quickly and track restoration progress by signing up for My Account at xcelenergy.com or by downloading the free Xcel Energy app, available at Apple Store and Google Play. Customers can be notified of outages in their area and gain valuable information on restoration times if their home or business is affected.