As the state continues to experience a shortage of electric generation, AEP Texas continues to await permission from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) to begin full restoration even as ERCOT continues to request that AEP Texas and other utilities remove additional electric load from the electric grid. It remains unclear when ERCOT will issue the go-ahead allowing utilities to begin full restoration of service to customers.
What happens when ERCOT gives permission to begin full restoration of service?
Damage to our electric system from the winter storm does not appear significant. Once we receive the go-ahead from ERCOT, we will begin restoring power. In many cases, the extreme cold and the time that customers have been without service will make it necessary for crews to go to substations and manually switch circuits back on. This cannot be done in advance. This will be one of the first steps we take when we receive ERCOT’s green light to begin full restoration.
Why am I not seeing crews and utility trucks in my neighborhood?
Unlike other significant weather events, this one has not caused widespread damage to the AEP Texas electrical system. For the most part, our system remains intact and we are waiting to receive permission from ERCOT to restore power. These outages are not due to transmission and distribution damage on our system. There is a lack of electric generation from power plants in ERCOT. Note: AEP Texas does not own generation.
We do have transmission crews making any necessary repairs to our larger power lines and other equipment that may have been damaged because of the extreme winter storm. AEP Texas is identifying any damages at the local level that may need attention or can be repaired offline now.
What or who is ERCOT and what is a load shed?
Think of ERCOT as the air traffic controller for electricity throughout about 80 percent of the state. Their main job is to prevent damage to the electric grid. That means when the amount of electricity generated by power plants falls significantly below the electric demand (customer use of electricity), ERCOT has the authority to direct electric utilities to interrupt service as a protective measure to damage to the grid and prolonged outages.
This interruption of service is known as a “load shed” because utilities are reducing or shedding the amount of power delivered over their power lines.
What happened to the rotating outages announced earlier?
Initially, the plan was to interrupt power in one area and then move on to another area while restoring power to the first area, and so on. In actual practice, the rotating outages have been focused on critical services such as hospitals, city water plants and other city services. Other outages expanded to new areas as ERCOT continues to direct AEP Texas and other utilities to interrupt service to additional customers. Electricity capacity produced by power plants did not increase even as demand for electricity continued to increase.
How did this situation happen?
As temperatures began falling, some power plants began to trip offline or stop producing electricity even as demand for electricity increased. ERCOT responded by directing the electric utilities to begin interrupting service to customers. This is the most extreme and widespread weather event in recent history and has affected all utilities in Texas, leaving 4 million customers throughout the state without power. Generation capacity from the power plants still has not increased to the level that would allow ERCOT tell utilities they can begin full restoration of power.
The loss of the electricity generated by power plants is what prompted the need for ERCOT to order the service disruptions as a safety measure.