When the weather is extreme-either heat or cold-we want to be comfortable. That’s understandable. We work hard in order to have modern comforts such as a cool or warm home. It’s our right and we deserve it!
But what about that cold February of 2011? Remember that one? The weather was so extreme, and our part of the United States was so unaccustomed to it, that power plants went down and we soon were in a world of hurt. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), who controls the electric transmission grid for most of Texas, began implementing their Emergency Preparedness Plan and utilities were required to shut down, or “shed” a designated amount of power distribution. We more commonly know it as “Rolling Blackouts.” When this happens no one is immune. Utilities are required to shed the load or face extreme penalties.
It is looking like 2014 could easily start out like that February three years ago. With temperatures at record lows, and everyone wanting to keep themselves and their outdoor pets warm, the potential for energy consumption in excess of production is a real threat.
At 7:00 AM Monday January 8th, ERCOT announced that due to the extreme weather conditions, electric reserves had fallen to below 2300 MW. This was not extreme enough for rolling blackouts. However, at 7:13 AM those reserves had dropped below 1750 MW, causing ERCOT to implement the Energy Emergency Alert Level 2. When this stage is reached there is a possibility that utilities will have to start implementing rotating outages. This situation will affect everyone in the state of Texas, and is not something that utilities can control.
There are measures we can take to help curtail the necessity of these “rolling blackouts.” Here are some tips from ERCOT to help save energy:
• Keep your thermostat as low as is comfortable, ideally no higher than 68 degrees.
• Turn off and unplug non-essential lights and appliances.
• Avoid running large appliances such as washers, dryers and electric ovens during peak energy demand hours (6-9 a.m. and 4-8 p.m.).
• Close shades and blinds at night to reduce the amount of heat lost through windows.
• Businesses should minimize the use of electric lighting and electricity-consuming equipment as much as possible.
• Large consumers of electricity should consider shutting down or reducing non-essential production processes.
The most critical hours are 6:00 AM to 9:00 AM when households are waking up and businesses are powering up, and 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM when families return home to begin their daily chores. If each household or business would take precautions and shed just a little power during those hours, rolling blackouts could be avoided in most cases. Perhaps we can make this one of our New Year’s Resolutions.
If you have an iPhone or Android, and would like to receive updates during critical power situations, download the ERCOT Energy Saver App through your App Store.
Shirley Dukes, CECA Communications/Public Information Specialist