Updated 2:44pm on February 2 — On Wednesday, February 2, Pedernales Electric announced that the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) had directed the Hill Country utility cooperative, and its other member transmission and distribution electric utilities, to shed electric load to help prevent uncontrolled, widespread blackouts throughout the state.
By mid-afternoon on Wednesday, ERCOT announced that rotating outages were no longer needed but may be required again that evening or on Thursday morning, depending on how quickly the disabled generation units could be returned to service. Energy conservation is still encouraged to reduce load on the system.
Starting early Wednesday morning, ERCOT instructed utilities all over the state to begin rotating outages to compensate for a generation shortage due to numerous plant trips that occurred because of the extreme weather. Critical need customers, such as hospitals and nursing homes, were generally not included, but the locations and durations are determined by the local utility.
PEC interrupted service to different parts of its territory in 10-increments to comply with the ERCOT directive. Outages reportedly lasted up to 45 minutes in some areas, potentially due to the extreme loads caused by appliances and heaters.
PEC asked its members to take steps to prepare for safe restoration of their electric service. All electrical appliances that were on when service was disrupted should be turned off, as well as the circuit breakers to major appliances. Once power is restored, members can help avoid overloading by turning these appliances back on in 15-minute intervals.
PEC asked that those who rely on uninterrupted power should make preparations as the utility cannot guarantee continuous service.
The utility's automated high volume call answering system was activated and members can report interruptions by calling 1-888-883-3379.
ERCOT urged consumers and businesses to reduce their electricity use to the lowest level possible, including these steps:
• Limit electricity usage to only that consumption which is absolutely necessary. Turn off all unnecessary lights, appliances, and electronic equipment.
• 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.
See more conservation tips at "Powerful Advice," Public Utility Commission of Texas: www.puc.state.tx.us./ocp/conserve
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 ERCOT Region includes Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Austin, Corpus Christi, Abilene and the Rio Grande Valley. It does not include the El Paso area, the Texas Panhandle, Northeast Texas (Longview, Marshall and Texarkana), and Southeast Texas (Beaumont, Port Arthur, and the Woodlands). Region map: http://www.ercot.com/news/mediakit/maps/index.html