COLD WEATHER
5:45 pm
Wed February 2, 2011

Texas Grid Still 5,000 Megawatts Short, More Rolling Outages Possible Tonight And Tomorrow

The periodic power outages mandated by the state's power grid operator could continue this evening and tomorrow.

"The grid continues to have more than 5,000 megawatts of generation out of service due to the effect of the extreme cold," the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) said in a statement.

Fifty power generation units across the state stopped working overnight, ERCOT said, leading to an initial 7,000 megawatt loss of generation capacity. ERCOT said it was prohibited by market regulations from revealing which power plants they were.

Mayor Lee Leffingwell stressed at a late afternoon news conference today that Austin Energy was not among them.

"I do want to say that at no time was the City of Austin short of power for our customers," Leffingwell said. "These outages were caused by mandated reductions in our load by the state grid system, in other words, to provide power for other parts of the state."

ERCOT officials urge people to take these steps to preserve energy and reduce the need for rolling power outages.

The power outages caused slowdowns in parts of the city when traffic lights went out. Coincidentally, city council is set to vote next month on whether to purchase backup generators for traffic signals.

Austin’s Transportation Department Director Robert Spillar said between 100 and 150 intersections were affected.

"We’re taking actions to add some more visibility in terms of adding more temporary stop signs," Spillar said. "Also [we are] working with police to make sure we have staff at the most critical intersections."

Mayor Leffingwell told reporters that "it would be impossible" to put an officer at every intersection with a non-functioning traffic light.

A winter storm watch begins Thursday afternoon through Friday morning along the I-35 corridor in Central Texas. The National Weather Service says there is a "good chance" of snow.