This just in from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas: Adjust your thermostats to 78 or higher now -- or, at the very least, between 3 and 7 p.m. -- or the whole state runs the risk of brownouts later. Why? Well, sure -- it's hot, hot, hotter than hell. But, according to a statement issued by Kent Saathoff, vice president of grid operations and system planning, the grid's running over peak today due to "unexpected unit outages." (Including at the Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant, reports Elizabeth Souder, which was shut down Monday due to "unplanned maintenance," which never sounds good.) From the EROCT release:
"If a high electricity demand or loss of additional large generation units causes our reserve power to be below the target threshold, the operators will begin emergency procedures to maintain system reliability," Saathoff said.
The emergency procedures are a progressive series of steps that allow ERCOT to bring on power from other grids if available (Energy Emergency Alert Level 1). If the situation does not improve, ERCOT escalates to a Power Warning (Energy Emergency Alert Level 2), allowing operators to drop large commercial/industrial load resources under contract to be interrupted during an emergency.
If the capacity shortage is not relieved by the contract demand response, ERCOT escalates to a Power Emergency (EEA Level 3) and will instruct utilities to reduce demand on the grid by conducting temporary outages at the local distribution level. These controlled temporary interruptions of electrical service -- or rotating outages -- typically last 15-45 minutes before being rotated to a different neighborhood.
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And I think we all remember what that actually means.