The Rolling Blackout Revue: ERCOT's Having Oncor Turn Out the Lights. But For How Long?

Several Friends of Unfair Park have asked about reports of a rolling blackout, courtesy Oncor at the behest of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. Sure enough: Says ERCOT spokesperson Dottie Roark on her outgoing message, "We are doing rotating outages or rolling blackouts. We don't know how long those will last at this time. It's due to loss of several units over the night because of the extreme weather conditions. We sent a news release to the media asking public for conservation." (That release is after the jump.)

Yeah, but how long will this temporary outage last?

"We don't know how long this will last."

Oncor spokesperson Jeamy Molina tells Unfair Park this morning that the request "kinda came very rapidly, and we had to comply with what ERCOT wants." But she doesn't call it a rolling blackout. Rather, says Molina, "It's called load shedding, and it's a very structured manner where we carefully select feeders to go out for 15 minutes." Problem is, she says, there's no way for Oncor to tell customers when and where those outages will occur till it's too late.

Oncor earlier had promised to get all the power turned on by this morning. Molina says folks experiencing longer-than-15-minute outages may be having weather-related problems not caused by the temporary outage. "We still had some outages [unrelated to the ERCOT demand] this morning," she says.

All I can say is: Better get that coffee maker on now.

Power Emergency - Conservation CRITICAL--Rotating Outages Have Begun

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) has instructed utilities to begin rotating outages to compensate for a generation shortage due to numerous plant trips that occurred because of the extreme weather.

Rotating outages are controlled, temporary interruptions of electric service, typically lasting 10-45 minutes per neighborhood. The locations and durations are determined by the local utilities. Critical need customers such as hospitals and nursing homes are generally not included.

It is not known at this time how long the need for rotating outages will last.

Consumers and businesses are urged 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:


A Power Emergency indicates that the regional electric grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), has instructed utilities to implement rotating outages to reduce load.

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.

Rotating outages primarily affect residential neighborhoods and small businesses and do not typically include critical-need customers such as hospitals and nursing homes.

The outages are limited to 10-45 minutes before being rotated to a different neighborhood. Some customers may experience longer outages if power surges cause equipment failure during the restoration process. Customers can minimize power surges by turning off appliances, lights and other equipment, except for one task light to determine when power has been restored.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky