AUSTIN, Texas — In addition to leading to crashes and many school closures across the Austin area, the winter weather also caused power outages across the area.
ERCOT said Friday morning that there had been no additional outages overnight, though a few generating units tripped. The agency said energy consumption is much higher Friday morning compared to Thursday, but there is sufficient power to serve load over the morning peak. ERCOT's grid operator has officially come out of emergency conditions Friday.
Customers that remain without power likely fall into one of these three categories:
- Areas out due to ice storm damage on the distribution system
- Areas that were taken out of service due to the energy emergency load shed that need to be restored manually (i.e., sending a crew to the location to reenergize the line)
- Large industrial facilities that voluntarily went offline to help during this energy emergency
Here's a look at how power outages are affecting customers in different parts of the Austin area.
The City of Georgetown said an outage from 9:30 p.m. to 11:55 p.m. Saturday due to damaged equipment at a substation affected around 12,000 customers. The electric utility communicated with LCRA, the transmission provider, to get power restored. As of 9 a.m. Sunday, the City's outage map shows zero outages.
On Sunday morning, the City said Pedernales Electric Cooperative and Oncor customers should continue to report outages to the companies through their outage-reporting systems (888-313-4747 or stormcenter.oncor.com for Oncor and 888-883-3379 or outages.pec.coop/dmsoutagemap for PEC). Residents can also report outages to the Public Utility Commission of Texas Consumer Hotline at 1-888-782-8477.
As of 8:14 p.m. Sunday evening, Austin Energy's outage map showed one customer without power.
Austin Energy said Sunday morning it had around 405 customers without power with 13 active outages. The remaining outages Sunday were largely due to transformers needing to be replaced.
Restorations had come in stages to avoid a circuit overload, officials said. Ice continued to cause additional problems and outages on lines and equipment, causing delays in restoration.
Austin Energy said that when your power comes back on, do not immediately crank up your thermostat, turn on every light or plug everything back in. They asked to give the circuit time to power up completely.
If you need shelter or a warming center, here's everything you need to know.
During a press conference Tuesday at 4 p.m. Travis County Judge Andy Brown signed an order requiring Austin businesses, stadiums and skyscrapers to turn off their outside lighting and any other non-essential lights or functions, in an effort to conserve energy during the city's ongoing power crisis. Brown said the order will also prohibit local businesses, including hotels, from artificially raising prices.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler also asked people in the area to conserve power.
"Here's the key phrase for me this afternoon: If you have power, please try to live almost like you don't," Adler said. "If you have heat, run it low, run it lower. If you have lights, try just to use the light you need at that moment. If you have power, maybe you'll take a turn using flashlights or a candle."
To monitor power updates from Austin Energy, click here.
Austin Energy provided the following information when asked about winter-weather preparations:
- Ice, as well as heavy snow, can weigh down tree limbs into power lines – causing outages. Austin Energy is always ready to safely restore power, our crews work 24/7 to keep the lights on. With the cold weather and the possibility of a wintry mix, we’re making sure we have extra line workers, troubleshooters and forestry crews on standby.
- We want Austinites to know there’s more to restoring power than just flipping a switch. Our first priority is the safety of our crews and customers.
- In addition to making sure crews are on standby, Austin Energy winterizes equipment:
- Generating unit rotors are turned on
- Critical oils used in machinery are preheated via oil heaters to ensure ability to start and operate with short notice
- Outside fuel tanks are heated
- Ensure personnel have proper winter clothing and PPE and know the signs of hypothermia and how to avoid it
- Ways customers can prep:
- We encourage customers to prepare for power outages by signing up for our text Outage Alerts or check our mobile-friendly outage map at Outagemap.austinenergy.com.
- Keep cellphones charged and have backup chargers charged as well.
- If working or doing school at home, save your work periodically and make sure your devices are on power strips. You may even consider using external power sources for your electronics.
- Make sure you have flashlights and fresh batteries (candles are a fire risk). As a family, assemble a storm prep kit with flashlights, batteries, snacks, water, etc. BEFORE storms hit.)
- Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed and your food will stay good up to four hours.
- How to stay safe during storms if you have to be out on the roads:
- Do not drive over or go near a downed power line, it could be energized. Call 311 if you see a downed line to report it. If the line is sparking, call 911.
- If you see limbs on wires or see downed tree limbs, please call 311 to report them.
As of 8 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 21, Bluebonnet said it has zero outages affecting zero meters.
The electric company said dangerous, icy roads are slowing crews trying to reach outages.
To report or check for outages, click here.
As of 8 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 21, there are approximately 746 remaining outages from the cold weather and lack of generation impacts experienced earlier this week, affecting 11,313 customers.
To view Oncor's outage map, click here.
On Feb. 17, Oncor echoed Austin Energy's directive from ERCOT that extended outages are expected until grid conditions across the state are stabilized.
"There continues to be a lack of available generation, and as a result, controlled outages remain in place as directed by ERCOT. Due to lowered power demand overnight, Oncor and other utilities were able to restore some of the previously dropped power load and increase our capability to rotate some outages throughout the territory," Oncor said in a statement. "Even with this increased capability, we still have many customers who continue to experience extended outages. We continue to strive toward providing any temporary relief that we can for those who have been without power the longest as soon as enough generation is available. However, as we saw yesterday, low temperatures of the early morning and increased power demand may result in direction from ERCOT to once again reduce additional load. We will continue to take their direction as we focus on ensuring the integrity of the electric grid. The second winter storm is also continuing to move through our service territory, potentially resulting in multiple inches of snow, significant ice and sleet accumulation. While weather impacts are ongoing, personnel and out of state mutual assistance contractors were staged across the territory before the storm and are now actively engaged in restoration efforts. These personnel are well experienced in working in extreme weather conditions and will be working around the clock to assess damages, clear debris and repair damaged equipment.
For information on peak demand interruptions from PEC, click here.
As of 9 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 21, PEC reported 34 outages affecting 155 meters, according to their outage map. About 99.956% of PEC meters have power.
"In an effort to more accurately reflect power outages, we are performing a system update to the outage map. Follow us on PEC social media platforms. We will post a notice when the map has been restored," the website said.
PEC said if customers have been out of power for several hours, they should check their breakers. If that doesn't work, they should report it through the SmartHub.
To report or check for outages, click here.
Extreme weather expected to result in record electric use
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) on Thursday said that it expects record energy use as a result of the extremely cold temperatures expected over the next few days.
“This statewide weather system is expected to bring Texas the coldest weather we’ve experienced in decades,” said ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness. “With temperatures rapidly declining, we are already seeing high electric use and anticipating record-breaking demand in the ERCOT region.”
You can monitor grid conditions in real time by following ERCOT on Twitter or by downloading the ERCOT mobile app available on Google Play and in the Apple Store.
On Monday, ERCOT issued an Operating Condition Notice (OCN) for extreme cold weather expected in the ERCOT region Thursday through Tuesday. ERCOT also issued an Advisory on Feb. 10 and a Watch on Feb. 11 for extreme cold weather. A Watch is the third level of communication issued by the ERCOT control room in anticipation of potential tight grid conditions.
Generators have been asked to take steps to prepare their facilities for the expected cold weather, which includes reviewing fuel supplies and planned outages and implementing winter weatherization procedures. The grid operator is also working with transmission operators to minimize transmission outages that could reduce the availability of generation or otherwise impact the ability of the system to serve demand.
Based on the current energy forecast, and if temperatures continue to decline, ERCOT said it could set a new all-time winter peak demand record Monday morning. The current winter peak demand record is 65,915 MW set on Jan. 17, 2018, between 7 and 8 a.m.