SWEPCO is asking its customers to conserve electricity for the next 48 hours beginning 12:01 a.m. Monday because of high demand.
SWEPCO said demand for power is expected to increase over the next few days "because of persistent, widespread and extreme cold."
Steps to reduce electricity use include:
- Turn down the thermostat 2 to 3 degrees, especially overnight. (Consider wearing additional layers of clothing to remain comfortable.)
- Set programmable thermostats to lower temperatures when no one is home.
- Limit use of large appliances (i.e., dishwasher, washer, dryer, etc.)
- Avoid using unnecessary lighting and other electrical devices.
- Open curtains on the sunny side of the house to warm up your home. If there’s no sun, close the shades to keep warm air inside.
Power reserves in the state were stable Sunday afternoon, but the Electric Reliability Council of Texas is anticipating the need to go into emergency operations from Sunday evening until Tuesday morning, said Dan Woodfin, senior director of system operations for ERCOT, the Texas Tribune reported.
“During this fairly unprecedented cold weather event across the entire state, electric demand is expected to exceed our previous winter peak record set in January of 2018 by up to 10,000 megawatts,” Woodfin said. “In fact, the peak demand on Monday and Tuesday is currently forecasted to meet or exceed our all time summer peak demand of 74,820 megawatts.”
On Sunday, the grid set a new winter record for demand when it reached 69,150 megawatts between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Texans purchase their electricity from companies, cooperatives or cities, but ERCOT works with those utility providers to manage the flow of power to more than 90% of the state.
If demand comes closer to capacity, ERCOT can declare a level-one, level-two or level-three energy emergency alert, which allows the council to use additional resources to respond to demand. According to ERCOT’s alert steps, the organization can import power from other regions, request extra power from transmission companies and release generation reserves under these alerts.
Temporary power outages are a last resort and would generally only occur after other resources had been exhausted. Woodfin said outages would be more likely to occur on Monday and Tuesday, but there is “certainly a possibility” that something could change and they could occur Sunday evening.
“If the additional resources available during an EEA (are) still not sufficient to balance generation and load, and we still don't have enough resources to serve the demand, then we could have to implement what's called rotating outages … so that we've got enough resources to cover what's what's left,” Woodfin said.
Outages typically last from 10 to 45 minutes for residential neighborhoods and small businesses, but the exact response would vary by transmission company, according to protocols for emergency alerts from ERCOT. ERCOT has only instituted three systemwide rotating outages in its history. The most recent one was more than 10 years ago on Feb. 2, 2011 in response to a blizzard affecting the state.
“We are experiencing record-breaking electric demand due to the extreme cold temperatures that have gripped Texas," Bill Magness, ERCOT President and CEO, said in a press release on Sunday. "At the same time, we are dealing with higher-than-normal generation outages due to frozen wind turbines and limited natural gas supplies available to generating units. We are asking Texans to take some simple, safe steps to lower their energy use during this time."