ERCOT-mandated power outages put extreme burden on Bluebonnet members

Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative members have endured continuous periods of rotating outages since 1:30 a.m. Monday, Feb. 15, due to a mandatory directive ordered by ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the electric grid in the majority of Texas.

Because of the magnitude of this weather event and a reduction in generation capacity to meet energy demand across the state, ERCOT ordered Bluebonnet, and other electric providers, to continuously reduce a large percentage of its system’s energy demand that has resulted in rotating outages for Bluebonnet’s members.

“The load-reduction requirements ERCOT is placing on Bluebonnet is putting an extreme burden on our members,” said Matt Bentke, Bluebonnet’s general manager. “We strive every day to provide reliable power to our members. Turning their power off is the last thing we ever wanted to do. But we must comply with ERCOT’s orders.”

Bentke said ERCOT’s requirement has led to lengthy outages and not enough time in between them for our members to warm their homes, cook their meals and do other necessary daily tasks that require electricity.

ERCOT has ordered Bluebonnet to reduce its system’s electric demand by up to one-third, and has been consistently more than 100 megawatts during most of the period beginning Monday morning. One megawatt provides enough electricity for about 200 homes in Texas during cold winter mornings.

Bentke said that Bluebonnet will continue to adhere to ERCOT’s order to reduce demand. Failure to comply with the ERCOT order would place the entire electric grid in jeopardy of prolonged statewide failure, and subject Bluebonnet to market-rule violations that could lead to substantial sanctions and fines from the Public Utility Commission of Texas.

Based on the weather forecast and information from ERCOT, Bentke stressed the need for Bluebonnet members to be prepared to potentially endure rotating power outages for another few days.

“The extremely cold weather and its impact on the ERCOT power region in Texas will last until the end of the week,” Bentke said. “We need to be prepared for continued rotating power outages, and take the necessary steps to stay safe and keep an eye on the safety of others during these conditions and circumstances.  ERCOT has given us no indication of generation capacity increasing to meet demand until the temperatures increase.”

This in only the fourth time in ERCOT’s history that it had to resort to rotating outages to ensure integrity of the state’s electric grid. During the last mandatory rotating outage event in February 2011, Bluebonnet members generally experienced outages lasting 15 to 20 minutes, with about an hour or more before rotating back into the outage. The February 2011 event only lasted a few hours.

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