AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Over the weekend, as the record-hot May weather continued, some customers in the Hill Country received an alert from the Central Texas Electric Co-Op.
It stated, “We have been asked by our transmission provider to shed electric load in your area. Members will likely see intermittent power interruptions between the hours of 5 to 8 p.m. today,” a viewer showed KXAN.
CTEC explained to KXAN this warning was out of an abundance of caution, and they were able to shed load elsewhere without implementing any outages.
“We sent a message out to our members asking them to conserve, and to try to help us avoid some will our rolling brownout. Basically, the plan was that we would take people out for 15 minutes to meet the load,” Bob Loth, CTEC’s CEO, explained Tuesday.
Loth said the initial problem was a local equipment malfunction issue, and those rolling outages were not related to any ERCOT mandate.
He said before the deadly February freeze, CTEC may not have even alerted customers.
“Before Winter Storm Uri, I don’t know that we would have even sent a public message, we probably would have tried to just handle it with and hope for the best. But in light of that storm and communication, every utility in the state took a beating over communication,” Loth said.
Going forward, though, should grid conditions get tight statewide this summer when extreme heat drives up demand, the state can now tap a new map identifying more than 60,000 entities that have been deemed ‘critical.’
In power emergencies, the critical entities would be kept on if rolling blackouts were implemented, in an effort to thwart further damage to the grid.
During the February freeze in 2021, natural gas producers were shut off during blackouts, which led to freezing in pipes and a lack of supply to keep our power plants going, which led to even more power outages.
“The electricity supply chain map identifies critical natural gas infrastructure required for the delivery of natural gas to natural gas dependent generating facilities, and connects the critical infrastructure to the electric distribution and transmission system,” Therese Harris with the PUC said during the PUC’s Texas Electricity Supply Chain Security and Mapping Committee Meeting Tuesday.
The map, which is not viewable to the public for security reasons, will also help state emergency responders stay in better communication.
“End users will also be able to access 24/7, contact, emergency contact information, owner and operator information and unique identifying information,” Harris explained.
That increased communication will also help keep the power on, or get it back on, in emergencies beyond extreme heat or cold.
“Over the next six months, as we’re in hurricane season, the different information on this map will be extremely important to the folks in the State Operation Center as they endeavor to get us through those crises,” Thomas Gleason with the PUC said Tuesday.
The Texas Railroad Commission has also been waiting for the final publication of this map, as their weatherization requirements will depend on which structures were officially deemed critical.
“The agency’s goal is to have our final rules adopted by the end of the summer, which then in turn will give operators a good head start on getting those standards implemented,” a representative for the RRC said during Tuesday’s meeting.