Texas dodges the bullet, no rolling blackouts (or power record) for Thursday


Update 3:

Texas’ power grid came within a hair’s breadth of rolling blackouts on Thursday as high temperatures combined with unplanned outages for as much as 7 percent of the state’s power generation capacity.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the manager for the high voltage transmission system that covers 85 percent of the state, issued a Level 2B warning Thursday afternoon, just one step away from rolling blackouts.

ERCOT called on all available power units, tapped power from neighboring power grids, including about 200 megawatts from Mexico, and turned to some large commercial customers to cut some 1,500 megawatts of power demand.

The measures were just enough to avoid what would have been the second instance of rolling blackouts this year and just the fourth instance in Texas in the past 21 years.

It was the third day in a row the state issued a power conservation warning, but the 1,500 megawatts of reduced demand meant the state didn’t break the record set Wednesday, when Texans used 68,294 megawatts during the 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. hour.

Thursday’s peak was just 66,815 megawatts.

One megawatt of power is enough electricity to power about 200 homes in Texas during hot weather when air conditioners are running for long periods of time.

Wholesale power prices were at the highest level allowed under the ERCOT system — $3,001 per megawatt-hour, or $3 per kilowatt-hour– for more than 2 hours at the height of demand.

The main difference between Wednesday and Thursday was the larger number of power plants offline, according to ERCOT spokeswoman Dottie Roark.

Texas has about 400 power plants, capable of generating roughly 70,000 megawatts of power in total. It’s not unusual for about 5 percent of the units to go off line for mechanical reasons during summer days, said Kent Saathoff, vice president of system planning and operations.

But Thursday’s outages may have been closer to 7 percent of the total fleet, or 5,000 MW.

ERCOT steadily issued warnings of the possible power problems throughout the day, beginning with a warning shortly after midnight that there would be tight demand in the afternoon.

At 1:25 p.m. ERCOT issued a warning that reserves had fallen below 2,500 MW, and at 1:46 issued a Level 1 Emergency as reserves fell below 2,300 MW.

At Level 1, ERCOT asks all available power plants to come online, begins drawing on power from neighboring grids, including Mexico, and asks consumers to cut back usage through 7 p.m.

At 2:33 p.m. ERCOT went into a Level 2A Emergency, at which time industrial customers who have agreed previously to shut-down equipment in an emergency were called on. That relieved about 1,000 megawatts of demand.

At 3:44 p.m. ERCOT entered a Level 2B Emergency, calling on another 300 to 400 MW of emergency interruptible loads and warning there was a “high probability” of rolling blackouts.

A Level 3  emergency is called when the outages begin to threaten the integrity of the entire grid. At that point local utilities — such as CenterPoint Energy in the Houston area or Oncor in the Dallas area — would be called on to do rotating blackouts, where certain circuits are cut off for 15 to 45 minutes — or longer — at a time.

If rolling blackouts are used, local grid operators like CenterPoint Energy in the Houston area and Oncor around Dallas and Ft. Worth, will turn off pre-selected circuits for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour in order to avoid a system-wide failure.

Customers won’t get a warning beforehand, but in Houston the areas hit will likely be the same as those affected during the Feb. 2 rolling blackouts. Here is an explanation of how CenterPoint choses the circuits that go out, including a rough map.

Thursday was the third day in a row that Texas’ grid operators declared an energy emergency, calling on all available power generators, tapping power from neighboring grids and asking customers to conserve their usage.

ERCOT made the same call Wednesday as power use broke a record for the third straight day and nearly 4,700 megawatts of power plant capacity was offline due to unplanned maintenance issues.

The grid came within 50 megawatts of going to the next emergency level on Wednesday.

Wholesale power prices hit their peak level of $3,001 per MWh shortly before the Level 1 announcement on Thursday. Prices hit that level for about 15 minutes on Monday, 1.5 hours on Tuesday and 2.5 hours on Wednesday.

The spikes shouldn’t have a direct impact on retail customers.

Categories: Electricity
Tom Fowler

57 Responses

  1. thank you for this. i hope no more power shortage.

  2. Debbie Berger says:

    It has always seemed to me that the practice of Houston restaurants and retail establishments blasting their air conditioning to the extent that most women (and probably some guys) actually carry jackets and sweaters with them throughout July and August was/is inefficient and wasteful of our energy resources. The current crisis isn’t their fault, but they (and we as individuals) could make some small helpful changes. I cannot count the number of times I’ve had to ask for a table change because the AC was blasting at my table.

  3. And by the way, $3,001.00 MWh translates into $3.001 kwh (not the 30 cents/kwh mentioned in the post or the $30/kwh cited in the comments above).

  4. I’m wondering when retail providers will start offering smart grid-based energy management rates that would allow them to reduce home energy consumption remotely in exchange for compensation of some sort (lower average rates, or bill credits, or something). Electric generators get paid when they provide reliability services to ERCOT. Large industrial power consumers get compensated for standing ready to cut back power use in emergencies.

    When will ordinary consumers get the same option to be paid for providing reliability services? Why is it small consumers get only a “please sacrifice your comfort so our system will keep running”?

  5. Paul Robison says:

    Will rolling blackouts be something Texans, like Californians, will have to get used to? Could we see “permanent” blackouts by 2012?

  6. TecmoSuperBowlOilers says:

    Remember when Houston Oiler home games were blacked out because they were not sellouts. That use to suck. Almost as much as the heat.

  7. West U Coog says:

    Brandon, stop posting nonsense. What’s sad is we all know you believe the crap you post.

    Go outside and stand in the heat for 30 minutes, maybe then you’ll understand the reason we’re having shortages. Historic heat wave. Not Obama, not electric vehicles, not global warming, not whatever it is you regurgitate from listening to right wing radio.

  8. Big L says:

    I just love when something negative happens in texas the first and only thing that gets blamed are the northern states. Do you locals really think that all of the people in the northern states are setting around dreaming up ways to get to texas?

  9. Jared says:

    Was wondering how the new meters effect this in the future?

    How much of Texas’ wind power was working today, just curious?


    • Tom Fowler says:

      In theory the new meters would allow retailers here to offer what Austin Energy has, which is people signing up to have their a/c cycled off for 10-minutes every half-hour during the peak hours. There may be other tools too.

      I believe there was about 1800 megawatts of wind power online, which is actually pretty decent for the summer daytime hours.

  10. Mickey Mantle says:

    Yea Joe you are correct Obama is black. The only problem is that unlike my black friends he is stuuuuuuupid. By the way I am caucasion. The dictionary call that white.

  11. henry says:

    Chris, go out on the porch. It will be nicer on your breezy porch than inside your house. Houston was founded in the early 1800’s, they sure didn’t have electricity back then, and everyone didn’t die off every summer.

  12. Chris says:

    How is this going to effect homes that have kids there during the day by themselves. They cannot be in the heat for an extended amount of time and neither can the animals (cats/dogs/birds ect)
    This could be a safety issue also if it is a long outage

  13. Ann says:

    I’d be *thrilled* to lose power as the result of a *thunderstorm* rather than heat.

    Hint, hint.

  14. brandon says:

    Well Dave,we have a president that is the stooge of the U.N. He is more concerned about cutting “carbon” emissions than providing America with jobs and power. It is funny that not a single “prediction” from Global climate change alarmist have come true. Funny those vary same alarmist are making billions from carbon taxes. Either through trading them as credits or by investing in 3rd world countrys the U.N. has agreed to give a “free pass” on from carbon taxes. Check out the earnings of ” Blood and Gore ” Al Gores company. This is nothing more than a group of fat cats shuting down the competition and inflating the price of a commodity they own.

  15. Ann says:

    Will it help that I’m off tomorrow? Actually, it won’t…OK, I’ll stick to my iPad as much as possible then instead of my PS3, which runs hot. Yay, I’m helping! LOL.

    By the way, I looked at that map of who gets hit. You know you’re linking to a story with a very small, illegible graphic that can’t be viewed at a larger size, right? It’s not very useful.

  16. Pat says:


    Watch the prices skyrocket. People are making money off this.

  17. Dave says:

    State of the Union 2011:

    … debt crisis …

    … stock market tanking …

    … dollar devaluing …

    … a totally useless government …

    … and now we can’t even keep the freaking lights on!

    What has become of us as a nation? It’s embarassing and pathetic!

  18. Johan says:

    Time to get rid of ERCOT and tie into either the eastern grid or the western grid.

    • Tom Fowler says:

      The grid to our East actually didn’t have power to spare today, according to ERCOT. We got about 200MW from our neighbors to the south. Viva Mexico!

  19. El Capitan says:

    I know that LCRA had to shut down a couple of plants earlier due to condenser tube leaks. Some of the older plants have trouble with the stress.

  20. TMB says:

    OK….everybody think back…. Remember the sweltering days following Hurricane Ike…. Hmmmmm…A few minutes of rolling blackouts, doesn’t seem that bad right now, huh?
    El Capitan, you rock man! Great information! Thanks.

  21. Nita says:

    Next thing you know we may be told, we need to lay off internet usage, due to it being bogged down.

  22. Dee says:

    i suggest they find the power we need if the want to stay in business!

  23. Bryan says:

    Industrial/commercial customer that are part of EILS or LAARS have to shut down power when ERCOT reaches Level 2 /2A.
    They have to be called 1st. They are already calling the LAARS customers.

    If they don’t they will be with high costs.

    The spot market on a variable rate maxed out today per ERCOT web-site, at a stagering $30 per KWh …. bet your glad your on a fixed rate. Oh and if your not, you have been out performing the fixed market for the past 24 months so it all balances out.

    BLAME not having enough clean power producing facilities in ERCOT.

  24. kelly says:

    mercy…i liked ms annabel’s comment…thumbs up!

  25. Eric Hayes says:

    Just noticed on my gas bill from centerpoint they are offering a rebate of 500 off their next bill for anyone buying a natural gas generator to run the electric in their homes.

  26. Dana says:

    Wow, can I be paid as a residential customer to shut down in such a situation? I would be a lot more willing if I received the same incentives as rich businesses.

  27. ROYSTOLL2 says:

    No Obama is not responsible for the high heat, everyone knows it is Bush’s fault. This does point out the absolute IDIOCY of developing and paying people to buy electric automobiles. Getting the Keystone Pipeline built and running and switching power plants to natural gas can’t hurt and why don’t we get rid of the professional environmental “nazis” and their lawyers and build nuclear plants like we should have been doing for the last 20 years. We shut our shop down at 3:00 as a matter of course.

  28. leslie says:

    I’m doing my best to conserve my power usage. Keeping all the lights off at home and at work. Air conditioning is always kept on “energy saver” mode at about 78 degrees. I only turn my a/c down at night when i go to bed and turn the temp up as soon as I get up. Obviously, I hate the idea of the power being turned off while it’s so hot outside, but what i’m really worried about are people who are elderly or ill. This high heat and rolling black outs can’t be good for them.

  29. Steve C says:

    Is there any way we can find out what percentage of the state’s generating capacity is online?

    • Tom Fowler says:

      Steve C:
      ERCOT says between 4000 and 5000 mw offline right now, that’s betwee 5.7% and 7%.

  30. luckyone says:

    All we need is jet fuel to fly The One around. All the rest of us will sit in the heat and dark. Where’s all the Green Energy?

  31. brandon says:

    Obama is a puppet of big banks and corporations.

  32. WizMcfly says:

    Tom, If I were an industrial customer that shut down during emergencies I would want to publicize the fact. Are there any listings for these businesses? What I am hinting at is I don’t believe there are very many of them.

    • Tom Fowler says:

      Not sure if there’s a list, but it’s likely. They bid into the market daily and get paid to take part in that “market.” THere are around 1,000 MW per day of capacity that bids in.

  33. Jennifer says:

    As I understand it, the state of Texas operates on a mostly inndependent power grid so ya cant blame this on Obama as much as you’d like to criminalize him for everything. When the West coast all the way over to New Mexico went out in the past, we didnt. When the east coast has issues in the dark of winter- we didnt and we all loved this system then. We stood on our own when others had bad times. Welp, now we just have to stand on our own when our times are bad. We are leaving the house in the afternoons so I can shut off everything but the refrigerator, hopefully others contribute too so we all get to keep power!

  34. El Capitan says:

    You’re not the sharpest knife in the proverbial drawer, are you brandon? Obama has not shut down ANY power plants. I suspect that you are feebly alluding to EPA requirements that are not yet in place. Try doing some research. I’ll add that those regulations only hurt some companies – the ones that are griping the most about it. ERCOT has a lot fo under-utilized gas-fired generation that will get more operational hours once those rules go into affect. Specifically, Luminant will have to spend millions to keep their coal plants open and NRG will have to convert their lignite plants to PBR coal. The objective analysis that I’ve seen show no reliability issues, although fuel costs will rise slightly and congestion in DFW will skyrocket.

    BOB and rat618 are wrong, as well. Perry has NO control over who builds generation. “Deregulation” is a misnomer; the market is still regulated, it’s just that generation supply is no longer a monopoly.

    Try blaming the PUCT. Generators can’t make enough money in today’s market design to support new plants, givne the current economic climate. Other American markets use capacity markets to ensure enough supply. The PUCT refuses to do do – primarily due to ideological reasons.

    We could import, but since ERCOT is separated from the rest of the USA by DC Ties, our import capability is very limited. Although that is a physical issue, it is driven by bad politics.

    I’ll add the well-functioning commodity markets always have stress when they are stretched for capability. If we had a lot of margin now, it would incrementally drive up costs for the rest of the year.

    Of course, even facts won’t stop the simpletons from the far right and the far left from whining and adding their useless political drivel to this sring. And those of us that understand will get some great humor in return!

  35. cynicalD says:

    The “Energy Reliability” part of ERCOT should be removed, since all they do is call for blackouts, and NEVER plan for exceptionally high electrical usage, even when they knew this was going to be an abnormally hot summer, and that this week would put a strain on the electrical grid.

    I’ve been saying for years that our power grid (national, state and local) needs to be upgraded, but the fix the government utilizes is new meters. REALLY?!?!?!

    Government is useless, anything they control they run into the ground. We need to put our government on a diet and trim the fat!!!

  36. Historianess says:

    MissAnnabel, what are you talking about? As a former resident of the northeast, I can tell you that heating oil is NOT cheap, and many people, mostly elderly people on fixed incomes, have difficulty keeping their homes warm in winter. For your information, it is the states, not Congress, who run programs to help people buy heating oil in the wintertime. I don’t see what Congress has to do with it. Congress, btw, doesn’t have anything to do with how Texas runs its electrical grid.

    In any case, heating oil is delivered by truck and stored in a tank in your basement. It doesn’t have anything to do with electricity or the power grid. I suggest to check your facts before you start calling names. (People from the north are haters? Really?)

  37. WizMcfly says:

    Does anyone know of a single business tha5t uses large amounts of electricity that is going to cut electric usage for 1/4 of a day?
    You shouldn’t even have people working that time of day anyway.

  38. JC says:

    I’ve just got to get off the grid.

  39. Daniel says:

    Wouldn’t it make more sense to shut down residential customers then industrial? I lived in Brasil for a number of years during droughts,(90% hydro-electric) and that was their plan. But of course they are not dependent on A/C the way we are here.

    • Tom Fowler says:

      The industrial customers that are shutting down are part of a program where they are paid to be ready to shut down in such a situation.

  40. TMB says:

    brandon, please explain how that it’s PRESIDENT Obama’s fault that it’s been averaging over 100 degrees for the last weeks or so….the increase energy useage has created power usage overload and to prevent a major blackout, rolling black outs may have to be implemented….please explain that to me, because if he’s responsible for temperature, drought, energy usage….he really is the GREATEST President we’ve ever had….oh yea…and Happy Birthday Mr. President!

  41. MissAnnabel says:

    As a matter of acts, Ubertaxed, the yankees get cheap oil for their winter heat and don’t fret rolling blackouts, while they make sure Congress keeps our costs high and subject to cut off on their whims. The northerners don’t have a worry about their heat and they don’t care how many southerners die of heat. I’d rather freeze to death than go by heat stroke. But yankees can’t even spell heat, they just know hate.

    • Tom Fowler says:

      If everyone can tone down the harsh accusations and rambling comments it would be greatly appreciated. I think most readers would prefer some thoughtful discussion on energy policy or personal power habits instead of simple angry ranting and raving. Any questions on how the Texas power system works? Maybe one of us can answer them.
      Thank you.

  42. I. R. Ubertaxed says:

    Remember whan Texans said about New Yorkers “Let them freeze in the dark?”
    Does anyone hear New Yorkers say about Texans “Let them fry in the day?”

  43. rat618 says:

    Oh come on Brandon…try blaming deregulation.

  44. BOB says:

    brandon, really? Isn’t it Perry’s fault since he IS the Chief Executive of this state? Source saying that obama os shutting down our power plants across the nation? You just don’t like Obama b/c he’s black and you’re as racist as they come.

  45. MissAnnabel says:

    We’ve been keeping our thermostat on 80 degrees the entire season and open the curtains instead of using lights. The only thing going in my house is my TV and computer besides the AC. We’ve had to do this because we can’t afford to keep it any cooler. Not much more we can cut back on without passing out.

  46. whoop says:

    If we get a blackout then I’ll expect my power company to let me out of my contract since they are failing to provide power.

    • Tom Fowler says:

      Your power company (Reliant, TXU etc.) is only a reseller of electricity generated by the companies owning the power plants. So they technically aren’t liable for the power going out. It’s likely in the fine print of your contract with them, too.

  47. DLH says:

    I’m just trying to figure out how to do without power at 105-107 degrees. It’ll come to me, I guess.

  48. brandon says:

    Thank God Obama is shutting down our power plants across the nation. Now we can pay more for electricity, and have it shut off during the hottest and coldest months in the year. Man I love this hope and change.

  49. MrOldMan says:

    Here we go again. Watch the electricity markets jump.