KWTX Explains: What is ERCOT?

Published: Feb. 16, 2021 at 2:39 PM CST
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - ERCOT - the Electric Reliability Council of Texas - is an organization responsible for maintaining 90 percent of the integrity of the Texas power grid called the Texas Interconnection.

Texas has a unique advantage in that the state maintains it’s own power grid whereas most of the lower 48 states receive power from either the Western Interconnection or the Eastern Interconnection, which are federally controlled.

The only exceptions in Texas include El Paso, serviced by El Paso Electric, a portion of the panhandle which is supplied by the Western Interconnection, and a portion of East Texas which is on the Eastern Interconnection.

ERCOT is governed by a board of directors which is overseen by the Public Utility Commission of Texas and the Texas Legislature.

The non-profit group schedules power generation among energy producers across Texas in order to maintain grid integrity.

During peak power consumption, which is usually encountered during particularly harsh winters or extreme summer heat, the organization often begins what are known as “rolling blackouts” where different generation stations across the state are brought off and online in order to prevent catastrophic failure of the power grid.

Oncor, the entity which maintains distribution for 90 counties in Texas, works directly with ERCOT as well at the Public Utility Commission of Texas to ensure distribution makes it from the power station to your home or business.

The entities maintain and service the transmission lines and grid and are commonly referred to as a “Transmission and Distribution Utility.”

As of current, it is believed the extreme drop in temperatures combined with icing has taxed the existing power grid causing failures across the state. As of Tuesday afternoon, the latest information available from Oncor’s website stated:

EMERGENCY UPDATE: Due to ongoing record-low temperatures and generation, ERCOT has continued to direct Oncor and utilities across the state to drop power load through maintained controlled outages. These controlled outages are occurring across the state and the entire Oncor service territory. Oncor was able to rotate some outages overnight, but poor grid conditions have continued to prevent us and other utilities from rotating, or rolling, the entirety of these outages, leading to extended periods without power for many of our customers. At this time, ERCOT is unable to predict when grid conditions will stabilize, and urge all customers to be prepared for extended outages to continue. We also urge customers to prioritize the safety of themselves, their loved ones and their neighbors. Many local counties have also opened warming stations or shelters, which can be located online or by calling 211.

At this time it is unknown when power is expected to be restored to Oncor’s 1,090,445 affected customers. Oncor has stated reporting is no longer necessary and they are working quickly to resolve the outages.

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