Electric delivery company Oncor is warning that rolling blackouts ordered by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, could last up to 45 minutes at a time.
ERCOT issued the rolling blackout order early Monday morning after winter storms covered the state in ice and snow and left life-threatening low temperatures in its wake.
Current ERCOT demand forecasts indicate load will peak around 71,000 MWh on Monday and Tuesday, according to Lamar Electric Co-op's website. That would be about 8% higher than the all-time 15-minute weather peak of 66,068 MWh reached on Jan. 17, 2018, the co-op reported.
"We encourage all Lamar Electric members to reduce energy usage on Monday and Tuesday (February 15 and 16) between 6:00 a.m. – 8:00 a.m. Also, stay informed on current weather conditions," the co-op said in a statement to customers.
ERCOT described the rotating outages as a “last resort to preserve the reliability of the electric system as a whole,” adding that utility transmission companies are tasked with determining how to reduce demand on the system. Rotating outages are controlled, temporary interruptions of electrical service that rotate through different parts of the electric grid. The outages typically last 15 to 45 minutes in each area but may vary, Oncor warned.
"Conservation remains critical and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas continues to urge all Texans to limit and reduce their electric use as much as possible. Even small steps, such as turning down the thermostat to 68 degrees, turning off and unplugging non-essential lights and appliances, and avoiding the use of large appliances like washers, dryers and dishwashers, can help make a difference," Oncor stated in a pop-up on its outage map.
The extreme cold is expected to last for most of this week, according to the National Weather Service, with the coldest temperatures coming today and Tuesday. The temperature in Paris at 7:45 a.m. was 5 degrees with a wind chill of -15. NWS forecasts predict a low tonight of -3.
The Red River Valley area remains under a Winter Storm Warning through 9 a.m. today, and Wind Chill and Hard Freeze warnings through noon Tuesday.
"Extreme cold will become life threatening to people and animals outside without adequate warmth or shelter," the NWS warned as it forecast a potential second round of snow Wednesday.
Atmos Energy is asking customers to conserve their gas usage as well, urging industrial sized business customers to comply. Atmos says customers can lower their thermostat to at least 68 degrees or can consider wearing additional layers of clothing and turning down the thermostat even lower. The company also advised customers to lower the water heater temperature to 120 degrees, reduce shower time and avoid baths, uplug electronic devices and turn off lights that are not in use. By conserving electricity, you are also helping to conserve natural gas which keeps the power on.
Refrain from using large appliances like your washer, dryer, oven, and dishwasher for the next few days. When in use, limit opening the oven door to prevent wasted energy.
Keep your fireplace damper closed unless a fire is burning. Leaving the damper open is like keeping a window wide open – warm air goes right up the chimney!
If you have a pool, do not use the pool heater. Instead, run your pool pump during the coldest part of the day to circulate the water and prevent freezing.
Atmos Energy reminds customers to heed the guidance of local leaders and stay alert to changing weather conditions in their area. Our “all hands on deck” teams are working to provide safe and reliable service, and we appreciate your patience during this historic weather event. In addition to reduced energy usage, please remember these ways to stay safe at home:
Never use an oven or a gas stovetop to heat your home.
Protect natural gas meters. Natural gas meters are weather-proof; however, to ensure that the meter keeps working smoothly, remove snow and ice from natural gas meters with a broom or brush. Never kick or chip snow and ice away with a hard object.
Minimize the risk of frozen pipes. Leave faucets running at a trickle, leave cabinet doors open, and close all doors and windows to keep heat inside.
If you think you smell gas, act fast! Leave the area immediately and from a safe distance call 911 and the Atmos Energy emergency number at 866.322.8667.
All Texas Department of Transportation managed roads in the region remained snow-covered and icy. Texans are asked not to get out and drive unless absolutely necessary.
Severe winter weather events like this often result in accumulated ice on trees and power lines, Lamar Electric Co-op said in a statement to customers telling them the company has been preparing for this and has linemen standing by to deal with any outages.