When Energy Emergency Alerts (EEA) are issued from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), conditions are prime to lead to the temporary loss of electricity across the state. Everyone knows, it’s hot in Texas and when our AC is in question those are fightin’ words! Well, fightin’ won’t do any good here, but knowing myth from fact can help you understand what’s going on and the right action to take when you see these alerts.
Myth: ERCOT is issuing an EEA because GVEC did not purchase enough electricity.
Fact: ERCOT is issuing an EEA because the energy currently being generated above actual demand (reserves) has reached below 2300 megawatts (MW). To put that into perspective, 1 MW is enough to power about 200 homes. According to the U.S. Census Bureau as of 2018, Texas included over 11.1 million housing units and over 2000 businesses. There are different levels of EEAs, but in general, an EEA means the immediate potential for electricity demand to surpass availability is high.
Myth: I pay my electric bill each month, so I don’t need to participate in EEA conservation requests.
Fact: The sole purpose of an EEA is to reduce the immediate level of demand for electricity. The consequences of not participating in EEA conservation requests are potential rotating outages (aka brownouts) and/or loss of electricity altogether (aka a blackout) for all utility customers in Texas. The more people that take efficiency steps during this time, the less likely conditions will elevate to the inconvenience of outages.
Myth: If I participate in EEA conservation, GVEC should give me a break on my electric bill.
Fact: The reality of the energy market is, the less energy available, the higher the cost of peak wholesale power that can be passed on to customers. GVEC lessens that risk by self-managing our wholesale power plan with various providers and staggered contract terms and rates, which can help minimize or avoid exposure to major price swings on the real-time electricity market. The purpose of this is to attempt to balance generation costs over time to avoid large fluctuations for you, the member, on your monthly electric bill and help keep your rates stable. Other utilities may function differently depending on their specific wholesale power plan.
When a homeowner’s bill fluctuates from month to month, it is because usage in the home fluctuates, not the rate (unless previously notified). Also, GVEC is a not-for-profit cooperative, which means wholesale power costs are passed on to our members dollar for dollar, with no increase. You are paying what we pay to purchase electricity through your Generation & Transmission (G&T) charge each month.
Myth: I’m not willing to shut off my AC, so I can just ignore the EEA requests.
Fact: No one is asking you to shut off your AC entirely in an alert situation. Just turn it up a few degrees to keep it from running for extended periods of time during an event. There are lots of other small steps you can take toward efficiency. If everyone does a little, it goes a long way at once.
Also know there are large commercial companies locally and across Texas that have pre-contracted to shut down in EEA emergencies, so they are working too to help alleviate the strain on the grid during these times.
Myth: GVEC is telling us to conserve energy, but they aren’t doing anything themselves to help the situation.
Fact: You may not “see” them, but things are happening behind the scenes during an EEA event at GVEC. We take load management steps with our substations and offices including voltage reduction and powering offices with backup generators just as two examples.
Myth: GVEC doesn’t want to give me any warning if an EEA escalates to rotating outages.
Fact: GVEC is mandated to act upon ERCOT’s directive to shed load within 5 minutes of receiving the orders. A random set of circuits is chosen to meet the load-shedding requirements. This process continues for as long as ERCOT advises, which could range from minutes to days. Though we can’t pre-warn members, if you are signed up for our TextPower outage reporting program, you will receive a text alert letting you know you are part of an outage and another when power is restored. Rotating outages last for approximately 30 minutes per circuit. Circuits are subject to be taken out of power multiple times as necessary for the duration of load shedding requirements.
Myth: If rotating outages do occur, only GVEC members will be affected.
Fact: ERCOT manages electricity flow for 90% of Texas homes and businesses. Every utility customer within this coverage area in the state of Texas, regardless of type (cooperative, municipality, investor-owned) are subject to be affected by rotating outages. If you require a constant source of power for special conditions, you are responsible for backup means. We recommend purchasing a generator for your needs to always be prepared in the event of any outage.
Myth: I can get all my facts from the media in an EEA.
Fact: The media receives updates from ERCOT, so it can be one source of information. However, complex industry terms and processes can be miscommunicated, so we also recommend passing the word on about the facts on ERCOT and rotating outages here at our website and blog. GVEC will also post updates on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages in the event of an EEA.