Texans encouraged to conserve as rolling blackouts continue *Updated*

Update: Grid operators have called an end to the cold weathered induced power emergency, saying the rolling blackouts that have hit many hundreds of thousands of customers should be coming to an end.


Texas electric customers are encouraged to continue to conserve power into the afternoon as a number of power plants around the state are still offline due to the cold snap.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas said the size of the rotating outages has been cut in half as of noon to about 2,000 megawatts. Earlier this morning local line operations, such as CenterPoint in Houston and ONCOR in Dallas, were asked to use rolling blackouts to cut up to 4,000 megawatts of demand from the system.

A higher-than expected surge in power use due to the cold weather, combined with up to 50 power generating units going offline unexpectedly, led to the emergency.

In Houston about one-sixth of area power customers — about 330,000 homes and businesses — were experiencing temporary blackouts this morning.

The situation is expected to continue to improve as more power plants are brought back online. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is waiving air permitting requirements that might prevent power generators from producing power during the emergency, according to a notice from ERCOT.

The rotating outages are controlled, temporary interruptions of electric service, typically lasting 10 to 45 minutes per neighborhood, but some Houston area neighborhoods are reporting longer outages. They are designed to prevent a larger, system-wide failure.

The rotating outages started statewide around 5:30 a.m., with local power line operators asked to shed 4,000 megawatts of load.

CenterPoint’s share of that figure was about 1,050 megawatts, but CenterPoint spokeswoman Leticia Lowe said the company has been allowed to cut back on the size of its rolling blackouts slightly.

CenterPoint predetermined which circuits and power lines would be systematically shut down or curtailed temporarily across its service territory to reduce usage. The company isn’t turning power off to critical facilities, such as hospitals, water treatment plants and other vital public services.

CenterPoint says it isn’t able to warn customers ahead of time if their power is being turned off. A spokesman for the Houston Indenpendent School District said a number of HISD schools lost power without warning today and they have no guidance on if it will happen at other schools.

“If they know what areas will be losing power, it would be a big help if we could get a heads-up,” said HISD spokesman Jason Spencer.

Did you have your power shut off this morning? Let us know below.