Winter Weather Watch

Austin residents should prepare for power outages to continue, officials say

Austin should prepare for power outages to continue, officials say

Austin snowstorm 2021
Sustained power outages are expected to continue through at least February 17, and likely longer. Photo by Montinique Monroe/Getty Images

KVUE — In addition to leading to crashes and many school closures across the Austin area, the winter weather has also caused sustained power outages across the area.

These outages are separate from planned rotating outages requested by ERCOT as electricity demand exceeds supply. According to Sen. John Cornyn, ERCOT submitted a formal request to the U.S. Department of Energy for an emergency order that would immediately authorize all electric generating units to operate up to their maximum generation output levels through Friday.

On Tuesday afternoon, ERCOT said it was "restoring load as fast as we can in a stable manner."

On Wednesday morning, ERCOT tweeted that some generation was slowly returning. ERCOT said it directed local utilities to restore 600,000 households statewide Tuesday night. ERCOT tweeted Wednesday morning, "gained some MWs overnight but are back to 14,000 MW of load shed; lost east DC-tie imports due to Midwest power emergency. We hope to reduce outages over the course of the day."

Here's a look at how power outages are affecting customers in the Austin area.

Austin Energy
As of around 9 am Wednesday, February 17, more than 185,000 people were without power.

Austin Energy said at 7:30 am that customers should be prepared to not have power through Wednesday and possibly longer. Customers who have sustained outages should expect outages to continue until the situation improves, Austin Energy said. 

There are currently outages to help maintain ERCOT's electric grid, and there are currently outages due to the ice storm, officials said.

If you need shelter or a warming center, visit this link.  

Austin Energy said Tuesday night crews were working to restore power for customers who have been impacted by outages the longest. According to Austin Energy, ERCOT ordered the power agency to shed more load Tuesday night, so customers who have their power restored may lose it again. 

In a tweet, Austin energy said, "We are frustrated but we are working to meet our obligations to maintain the state's electrical grid."

During a press conference Tuesday at 4 pm, Travis County Judge Andy Brown signed an order requiring Austin businesses, stadiums, and skyscrapers to turn off their outside lighting and any other non-essential lights or functions, in an effort to conserve energy during the city's ongoing power crisis. Brown said the order will also prohibit local businesses, including hotels, from artificially raising prices. 

Austin Mayor Steve Adler also asked people in the area to conserve power.

"Here's the key phrase for me this afternoon: If you have power, please try to live almost like you don't," Adler said. "If you have heat, run it low, run it lower. If you have lights, try just to use the light you need at that moment. If you have power, maybe you'll take a turn using flashlights or a candle." 

Austin Energy said it may have to tap into circuits connected to critical infrastructure if the energy supply dwindles across the region. 

On February 15, Austin Energy said the rolling blackouts are selected at random by a computerized system. A list of critical places, such as hospitals, is kept updated and is not subject to the rolling outages.

Austin Energy officials said they are working around the clock to ensure restoration to services, as needed. On February 14, Austin Energy COO Sidney Jackson told the media that the recurring outages are likely to continue as the bad weather persists. Jackson asked consumers to conserve energy to help Austin Energy reduce peak demand.

To monitor power updates from Austin Energy, click here.

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To read the full story, including updates on power outages from other providers in the Austin region, visit KVUE.com.