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2:56 pm
Tue July 10, 2012

Rolling Blackouts in Texas? History is on Your Side, But Heed Warnings

AUSTIN - There’s a renewed concern of if the state has enough electric supply to meet demand this summer, as expressed Tuesday by the president of the Texas electric grid.

Trip Doggett told lawmakers that any unexpected drop in generation or spike in demand could lead to rolling blackouts, the Associated Press reports.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas is responsible for managing the state's electric grid, while private companies generate the electricity. Many of those companies have complained in recent years that Texans don't pay enough for electricity for them to invest in new generation plants. Last month the Public Utility Commission raised rates to encourage more electricity generation.

Doggett said that electric supply will be tight this summer and warned the agency would likely declare energy emergency alerts asking consumers to cut back on electricity use. But blackouts would only result if a plant shutdown.

Only three times in the state’s history have officials implemented rolling blackouts, none during the summer. The last controlled outage took place during a major freeze in February 2011. The previous two were in April 2006 and December 1989.

“It’s important, if we ever do get into that situation again, to realize that these [rolling outages] are designed to be very short,” said Robbie Searcy, media specialist with ERCOT, during a June interview with KETR. “Now the transmission and distribution providers that actually handle those rotating outages at ERCOT’s direction; they handle them differently but typically they’re 15 to 30 minutes in duration max.”

While the likelihood of rolling outages are rare and could be reasonably quick, Searcy stressed the company doesn’t want customers to become complacent.  

“We hope that just because things worked out OK people won’t assume that they don’t need to conserve. Things may very well have worked out OK because they did.”

Above, hear Searcy explain the criteria that ERCOT follows for issuing an energy emergency alert and what would constitute rolling blackouts.

On June 26, ERCOT experienced the highest demand for the month of June and July with over 66,000 megawatts.