Texas Issues New Orders Limiting Rotating Blackouts To 12 Hours, But Will That Work?

Submitted by News Desk on

Following winter storm Uri’s devastating affects on Texas, the Public Utility Commission of Texas has ordered that a rotating power outage for a customer in Texas can’t last for more then 12 consecutive hours before power much be restored and the rotation continue to move onwards.  

The new order comes after millions of Texans were left without power for days in what were suppose to be rotating blackouts, while yet others continued to have power through the entire disaster event, even many who were not near a fire station, hospital, or essential utility.  “The expectation is that customers will be rotated through outages so that the burden is shared: that no customer’s outage will last so long as to precipitate endangerment and so that all customers shared this burden in as equitable a manner as circumstances will allow” read the order. 

Some have already found fault with the new order saying it sounds good but uses so many vague words that it essentially is nothing more than a request or a good public relations response from there state agency to deflect blame back to grid operators and power plants.  “I read that and was like, so basically it talks tough but has no teeth.  You can’t enforce an order that uses words like “as allows” and that the commission “expect” but doesn’t set a process for those expectations or enforcement”, says Shelly Tamborides of Austin.  She adds, “and if power plants properly winterized as they had been warned and recommended in 1998 and in 2011, we wouldn’t need this unenforceable order.”

The Public Utilities Commission’s full order reads as follows:

On February 12, 2021, pursuant to Texas Government Code § 418.014, in response to an extreme winter weather event, Governor Greg Abbott issued a Declaration of a State of Disaster for all counties in Texas. Further, on February 15, 2021, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, Inc. (ERCOT) declared its highest state of emergency, an Emergency Energy Alert Level 3 (EEA3), due to exceptionally high electric demand exceeding supply. ERCOT has directed transmission operators in the ERCOT region to curtail more than 10,000 megawatts (MW) of firm load. The ERCOT System is expected to remain in EEA3, and firm load shed is expected to continue, for a sustained period of time in light of the expected duration of the extreme weather event. Further, many customers that were subjected to load shed have remained in an outage status for days. The expectation is that customers will be rotated through outages so that the burden is shared: that no customer’s outage will last so long as to precipitate endangerment and so that all customers shared this burden in as equitable a manner as circumstances will allow. Under the Nodal Operating Guides, load shedding obligations are imposed on distribution service providers.1 Of this type of entities, the Commission’s jurisdiction for purposes of this order extends to only such entities that meet the definition of transmission and distribution utility, which expressly does not include a municipally owned utility or an electric cooperative.2 The Commission has extensive authority over a TDU’s operations.  For these reasons, the Commission orders all TDUs in the ERCOT region to rotate customers that are properly subject to curtailment under EEA3 in a manner that no such customer is subjected to an outage of more than 12 hours. Signed at Austin, Texas the 17 day of February 2021.

The order was signed by Chairman Deann T. Walker, Commissioner Arthur C. D’Andrea and Commissioner Shelly Botkin.