Austin Energy: ‘ERCOT is ordering us to shed more load’

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — At 7 p.m. Tuesday, Austin Energy said ERCOT ordered it to cut power usage even more.

“Unfortunately, ERCOT is ordering us to shed more load tonight as demand on the grid increases, and those restored customers may again lose power. We are frustrated, but we are working to meet our obligations to maintain the state’s electrical grid,” a tweet from Austin Energy said.

Austin Energy says the ongoing power outages will likely extend into Wednesday. It sent a series of tweets Tuesday afternoon warning customers to prepare for another night without power.

“While ERCOT says conditions are improving, we want customers to know this is a dynamic situation and conditions are changing throughout the day. Customers should be prepared to not have power through Tuesday night and possibly longer,” Austin Energy wrote.

The utility said it is not using rotating outages anymore and only doing prolonged, controlled outages, because it can not take anymore circuits off the grid to start rotating outages. It says all outages currently still on the grid have a pre-identified critical load, which likely means they serve things like hospitals.

In a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Austin Energy said it asked its large customers to conserve energy and use their backup generators.

“Right now and today and overnight we have been working around the clock,” said Austin Energy General Manager Jackie Sargent.

Austin Energy explained it does have a list of medically vulnerable customers for situations like these. People sign themselves up for the list.

Mayor Steve Adler urged those with power to live like they don’t have power to conserve energy.

Travis County Judge Andy Brown expressed his own frustration as he’s been without power for nearly 40 hours as well.

“We want to make sure to look at ways that we can work on a system to where we can do rolling blackouts, to where it’s not certain parts of the population in Austin, including where I live… that are without energy for 38 hours and instead try to figure out ways that we could maybe modernize the system here in Austin to deal with the failures of ERCOT,” Brown said.

He said he would also be signing an order later on Tuesday to prevent price gouging, including for hotel rooms. He said if you see price gouging, to report it to the office of the Attorney General right away.

The City of Austin is looking at ways to create signup websites for volunteers willing to help others out.

Bluebonnet may reduce rolling outages

Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative said that the state’s electric generation capabilities are improving.

“Electric generation capacity in ERCOT’s region is improving today, and more wind and solar power will be available. Power plants that were offline or operating at reduced capacity yesterday are coming online or increasing their production,” Bluebonnet said in a statement.

“That could reduce the number and duration of rotating outages for Bluebonnet members. However, more cold weather could require an increase in rotating outages [Tuesday] evening.”

Pedernales outages continue, could be ‘extensive’

Pedernales Electric Cooperative also delivered a short statement on social media. The utility said service interruptions are highly likely [Tuesday]. It said the outages could be “extensive, lasting for hours, under the statewide directive.”

It added that extreme temperatures have led to infrastructure damage.

Travis, Williamson counties open emergency shelters amid extended power outages

Austin has added some warming shelters for vulnerable people who need a place to go:

  1. Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Road: Austin called this its “primary” warming center. Single adults in need of shelter should report to this warming center. When Capital Metro resumes service, you can use bus routes 1, 7, 10, 20, 801, 30 to access. Rides are free for those looking for shelter.
  2. Mendez Middle School, 5106 Village Square Dr.: There is limited capacity and this is intended for Austin’s most vulnerable populations, especially those who have medical devices that need power to operate.
  3. Northeast Early College High School, 7104 Berkman Dr.: There is limited capacity and this is intended for Austin’s most vulnerable populations, especially those who have medical devices that need power to operate.

“The City and County have put out an urgent plea to businesses to reduce their power consumption as well. Any measure that can be taken by homes with power or commercial businesses to reduce power usage is a step closer to returning power to homes in our community.”

If you are in need of transportation to one of these shelters, the City of Austin advises you to call 311. Additionally, Capital Metro is offering rides off its routes at no cost. You can also contact the Austin Disaster Relief Network for transportation needs, the city said.

If you have COVID-19, 311 will set you up in an isolation facility, rather than a warming shelter.

Williamson County is also opening up sites for oxygen-dependent people to recharge their oxygen condensers.

“These facilities are being opened to address a critical medical need and will be open specifically for these individuals only. Assuming the weather cooperates, these facilities will open again tomorrow starting at 9 a.m.”

These facilities will be open starting today:

  • Open at noon: Williamson County Sheriff’s Office Training Room, 508 Rock St., Georgetown
  • Open at 1 p.m.: Williamson County Inner Loop Annex, 301 S. E. Inner Loop, Georgetown
  • Open at noon: Hutto Police Department, 401 Front Street, Hutto
  • Open at 1 p.m.: Leander Police Department, 705 Leander Drive, Leander

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