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Electricity conservation called for between 3-7 pm until heat subsides

AUSTIN – The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, Inc. (ERCOT), system operator for the state’s bulk electricity transmission grid, is reminding businesses and consumers that conservation is needed during peak electricity hours this week from 3 to 7 pm. as the record-high summer temperatures continue throughout the state.

Conservation will prevent power outages and prevent rotating outages.

ERCOT set a new all-time peak demand three times last week. The current record is 68,294 MW, which occurred Aug. 3, between 4-5 p.m. 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.

“We really appreciate the efforts of consumers and businesses all this week to reduce their electricity use during the peak hours,” said Kent Saathoff, vice president of system planning and operations. “We expect to continue calling for conservation until the high temperatures subside.”

Power Warnings are issued by the electric grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), when there is a high risk that rotating outages will be needed to reduce load.

The emergency procedures are a progressive series of steps that allow ERCOT to bring on uncommitted generation and power from other grids. If the situation does not improve, ERCOT will first drop load resources (a market-based demand response program) and other resources under contract to be interrupted during an emergency. Only as a last resort (Power Emergency) to avoid the risk of a complete blackout does ERCOT ask utilities to reduce demand by dropping load through rotating outages.

Rotating outages are controlled, temporary interruptions of electrical service initiated by each utility when supplies of reserve power are exhausted. Without this safety valve, generators would overload and begin shutting down to avoid damage, risking a domino effect of a region-wide outage.

The outages are typically limited to 15-45 minutes before being rotated to a different neighborhood. Some customers may experience longer outages if power surges cause equipment failure during the restoration process. Customers can minimize power surges by turning off appliances, lights and other equipment, except for one task light to determine when power has been restored.

Consumers should contact the utility company/ transmission provider listed on their electric bill for information about power outages at their homes or business, or about rotating outage procedures for their area.

Conservation Tips

Consumers can help by shutting off unnecessary lights and electrical appliances between 3 and 7 p.m., and delaying laundry and other activities requiring electricity-consuming appliances until later in the evening.

Other conservation tips from the Public Utility Commission’s “Powerful Advice” include:

  • Turn off all unnecessary lights, appliances, and electronic equipment.
  • When at home, close blinds and drapes that get direct sun, set air conditioning thermostats to 78 degrees or higher, and use fans in occupied rooms to feel cooler.
  • When away from home, set air conditioning thermostats to 85 degrees and turn all fans off before you leave. Block the sun by closing blinds or drapes on windows that will get direct sun.
  • Do not use your dishwasher, laundry equipment, hair dryers, coffee makers, or other home appliances during the peak hours of 3 to 7 p.m.
  • Avoid opening refrigerators or freezers more than necessary.
  • Use microwaves for cooking instead of an electric range or oven.
  • Set your pool pump to run in the early morning or evening instead of the afternoon.

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.

Emergency Procedures Background

The emergency procedures are a progressive series of steps that allow ERCOT to bring on power from other grids if available, beginning with a Power Watch (Energy Emergency Alert Level 1).

If the situation does not improve, ERCOT escalates to a Power Warning (Energy Emergency Alert Level 2), allowing operators to drop large commercial/industrial load resources under contract to be interrupted during an emergency.

If the capacity shortage is not relieved by the contract demand response, ERCOT escalates to a Power Emergency (Energy Emergency Alert Level 3) and will instruct utilities to reduce demand on the grid by conducting temporary outages at the local distribution level. These controlled temporary interruptions of electrical service – or rotating outages – typically last 15-45 minutes before being rotated to a different neighborhood.

Consumers should contact the utility company/ transmission provider listed on their electric bill for information about power outages at their homes or business, or about rotating outage procedures for their area.

For information, call the Public Utility Commission Consumer Hotline at 1-888-782-8777 or Office of Public Utility Counsel Consumer Assistance at 1-877-839-0363.

By J.J. Smith, Publisher

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