cold weather
11:26 am
Wed February 2, 2011

Here Is Where You Can Find Information on Power Outages In Austin

We linked to it in an earlier post, but we want to make it as clear as possible about where to find this information. Austin Energy provides data on power outages through its Customer Outage Portal.

Austin Energy is continuing to implement rolling power outages under an Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) protocol. Austin Energy says there is no indication yet from ERCOT when the emergency is expected to end. But the city-owned utility said in a statement that ERCOT "has reduced slightly the amount of load shedding required statewide -- which means additional generation is  being brought online."

In the meantime, Austin Energy power outages will last between 30 to 45 minutes. Some consumers may have their power briefly restored and then experience another outage.

Austin Energy is asking customers to reduce their power load as much as possible by turning off all unnecessary appliances and electronics. That not only reduces the need for outages by lowering overall consumption, but it also makes it easier for Austin Energy to turn the power back on in certain neighborhoods, according to the statement.

For those experiencing genuine power outages, Austin Energy says it won't be able to repair those until the statewide electricity emergency is over because "the Energy Control Center cannot manage the load shedding exercise and provide coordination for outage restoration."

Once the rolling blackouts are over, Austin Energy customers should report their outage by calling 512-322-9100.

ERCOT provided us some background on what constitues a "power emergency".

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.