ERCOT’s Role on the Texas Electric Grid
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is an independent, not-for-profit organization tasked with balancing the flow of electricity across 90% of the state of Texas. ERCOT’s electric grid includes over 26 million consumers connected to over 710 power generation units through 46,500 miles of power lines. At every minute of every day, the amount of power being generated (supply) must match the amount of power being used (demand).
If the grid becomes unbalanced, it can cause dangerous conditions along power lines, inside substations and electrical equipment, and especially for generation units. During these situations, ERCOT begins emergency operations to bring the grid back into balance. During a power emergency when electric supply cannot meet consumer demand for electricity and all other operational tools have been exhausted, the demand for electricity must be reduced to avoid uncontrolled blackouts. As a last resort, ERCOT will instruct electric utilities to implement controlled consumer outages to reduce the demand for electricity on the ERCOT grid. This is referred to as load shed and will last until the power emergency is resolved by ERCOT.
Typically, before calling for controlled consumer outages, ERCOT takes steps to reduce the demand on the electric grid by asking consumers to reduce electric usage. The Public Utility Commission of Texas website provides energy savings tips for customers to reduce electrical use in an attempt to prevent an involuntary load shedding event and/or during an event to help aid in bringing balance to the grid. (https://puc.texas.gov/consumer/facts/save.aspx)
Electric utilities, including Wharton County Electric Cooperative (WCEC), are obligated to immediately implement load shed procedures when ERCOT instructs.
What WCEC Members Can Expect During Load Shed Events
- All members should assume their power could go out without advanced warning. Efforts will be made, as much as possible, to provide advanced notification of pending outages, but circumstances do not always allow that to happen.
- Members designated as critical accounts are not guaranteed an uninterrupted supply of electricity. It is the responsibility of the member to make necessary arrangements for alternative sources of electric power should a localized outage or load shed event occur.
- Residential consumers dependent on electric-powered medical equipment, such as those designated as Critical Care or Chronic Condition, are encouraged to have a solid backup plan in the event they lose electricity. It is important to note that these members are not excluded from controlled outages and may lose power during a load shed event. Anyone who depends on electricity for any type of life-sustaining equipment should have a backup plan in place.
- The process for a member to apply for Critical Care Residential or Chronic Condition Residential status can be found on WCEC’s website at MyWCEC.coop/CriticalAccount. Those seeking Industrial or Public Safety Critical Load status should call WCEC at 979-543-6271.
- Critical Care Residential – A residential member who has a person permanently residing in his or her home who has been diagnosed by a physician as being dependent upon an electric-powered medical device to sustain life.
- Chronic Condition Residential – A residential member who has a person permanently residing in his or her home who has been diagnosed by a physician as having a serious medical condition that requires an electric-powered medical device or electric heating or cooling to prevent the impairment of major life function through a significant deterioration or exacerbation of the person’s medical condition.
- Critical Load Industrial – An industrial member for whom an interruption or suspension of electric service will create a dangerous or life-threatening condition on the member’s premises.
- Critical Load Public Safety – A member for whom electric service is considered crucial for the protection or maintenance of public safety, including but not limited to hospitals, police stations, fire stations, and water and wastewater facilities.
- Electric utilities will prioritize continuity of service for certain members whose service is critical to the community during an emergency or those whose service provides major support to the integrity of the electric system during an emergency. Examples include medical facilities and emergency response facilities.
- Because a load shed event is an emergency order from ERCOT based on a shortfall of electricity being generated, electric utilities, including WCEC, do not have the information to be able to notify individual members if they may lose power, when they may lose power or how long the load shed event may last.
- In extreme power emergencies, ERCOT may require electric utilities to shed large amounts of load over long periods of time. In these instances, electric utilities like WCEC may not have the ability to rotate outages without risking the stability of the entire electric grid. When this happens, some consumers may be without power for an extended period of time. These outages are critical for ensuring the integrity of the state’s electric grid and preventing a system-wide blackout, which could be long-lasting and have a significant impact on all aspects of life.
- Electric utilities are required to continue to comply with ERCOT controlled consumer outage instructions until ERCOT determines that outages are no longer required.
- The Public Utility Commission of Texas website provides energy savings tips for customers to reduce electrical use in an attempt to prevent an involuntary load shedding event and/or during an event to help aid in bringing balance to the grid. (https://puc.texas.gov/consumer/facts/save.aspx)
- Regardless of the nature of the load shedding event, WCEC is committed to ensuring the safe and reliable delivery of electricity to its members 24-hours-per-day, 7-days-per-week. While we cannot control the issues or conditions that have required ERCOT’s order to shed load, we will do everything in our power to restore electricity when we are able to safely do so. In addition, we will work to keep our members informed about the situation through local media outlets, social media, and direct communication.