ERCOT Urges Texans to Conserve Energy as Freezing Temps Move in

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The frigid temperatures across Texas are straining the state's electric transmission grid. The cold knocked out two power plants in north-central Texas. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas early Monday morning asked customers to cut back on power usage to avoid rolling black-outs.

"Extreme cold causes very sharp spikes in electric usage particularly on Monday mornings or mornings in general,” said BTU General Manager Gary Miller.

BTU General Manager Gary Miller says it's something that doesn't happen very often.

“ERCOT's load forecast turned out much lower than what it actually turned out to be so therefore we as a state couldn't keep up with the demand for such a short period of a time,” Miller said.

Monday morning, ERCOT, the manager of the state's electric grid warned residents to conserve power in an effort to prevent rolling blackouts as most of Texas experienced freezing temperatures.

“We have three levels of emergency alerts and under the emergency alerts we are able to take action in addition to the actions that are taken for normal operations,” said ERCOT Director of System Operations, Dan Woodfin. “It's only the third step that we do rotating outages and we did not move to that stage this morning.”

According to ERCOT's site, an Energy Emergency Alert 1 is issued when there's an "extremely high electricity demand or unexpected loss of large generation units."

Residents and business owners were urged to conserve power until the grid's power levels were restored.

“Any reduction in load by our customers and customers across the state is very helpful to ERCOT so they can help make sure to meet demand,” said Miller.

Miller says it's important for homeowners to: turn off any non-essential appliances, especially when leaving the house; don't use large appliances from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. or 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.; also turn your thermostat as low as comfortable, but preferably no higher than 68 degrees.

By mid-morning Monday, ERCOT lifted the emergency alert after the power levels were restored, however, Texans are still being asked to conserve energy to prevent rolling black-outs in the coming days.

Rotating outages primarily affect residential neighborhoods and small businesses and do not typically include critical-need customers such as hospitals and nursing homes. The last rolling black-out took place in Texas in February of 2011.