As thousands of Washington County residents continue battling power outages due to high electric demands brought upon by sub-freezing temperatures, Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative has provided some information regarding the blackouts.
On Monday, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) was forced to increase the amount of energy which utilities in its region are required to shed through statewide rotating outages. Bluebonnet officials, as well as the city of Brenham, have stated that mandatory rotating outages could be required through Tuesday.
“Due to the ongoing statewide winter weather disaster and unprecedented levels of energy demand, ERCOT, the state’s electric grid operator, has ordered Bluebonnet and other utilities across the state to initiate mandatory rotating outages,” Bluebonnet said in a statement released on its Facebook page Monday.
Due to the precious nature of the information provided by Bluebonnet, the following information comes as stated by the provider through its Facebook page:
• Bluebonnet is operating in compliance with ERCOT requirements to reduce power load by an amount determined by ERCOT.
• ERCOT rules set the criteria for which electric feeders – sections of power lines that can run for dozens of miles – Bluebonnet can include in emergency rotating outages.
• ERCOT only orders utilities to initiate these statewide rotating outages to prevent uncontrollable outages that could severely impact the state’s electric grid.
• Bluebonnet feeders are in one of two emergency load-reduction programs: timed rotating outages, or outages of indefinite length and frequency to stabilize the electric grid.
• Feeders that power critical facilities - like hospitals or emergency services departments, and critical infrastructure like natural gas pipelines and storage that provide fuel to power plants - are excluded from emergency load-reduction programs.
“We know it is difficult to be without power during such a challenging time,” Bluebonnet went on to say through its Facebook post. “We understand the frustration our members feel during these ERCOT-ordered rotating outages.”
Bluebonnet members can report outages by calling 800-949-4414, by visiting www.bluebonnet.coop, or by using the co-op’s mobile app. Customers whose energy provider is the City of Brenham and whose power has been out for more than three hours can report the outage by calling 979-337-7400.
The city released a series of questions and answers on its Facebook page, starting with information on why the outages have occurred.
“There are two major issues affecting many customers right now: winter storm outages and controlled power outages directed by ERCOT, which serve to reduce high demand and protect the integrity of the electric grid,” the city stated.
The city also said that given the unique combination of lack of generation and historic winter storm damage, estimated power restoration times are not yet known. The city said its crews continue working around the clock to restore power.
“Controlled outages related to grid supply and demand have been significantly extended due to the current emergency grid conditions and severe cold weather,” the city stated. “In order to preserve the reliability of the grid, ERCOT has said that additional generation will be needed before power can be restored.
“These outages are taking place across the service territory and ERCOT has said they could be required through Tuesday. We are asking all customers to be prepared to be without power for an extended period of time.”
The city also stated that it is unsure when power generation plants will come return to service.
“Due to the severe winter storm, we do not know and it is outside of our control,” the city explained. “Conditions for power generation continue to be very serious and the combination of winter weather and reduced generation is unprecedented in the state of Texas. We are prepared for emergency operations to continue for at least several days.”