February 16, 2021 at 1:30 p.m.
Power Situation Update
As of midday on Tuesday, February 16, the regional transmission organization for TCEC’s service area, called the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), continues to fluctuate between energy emergency alert levels 1, 2 and 3. This means the electric grid is stressed. Energy conservation remains critical for the next 24 hours. The more energy we conserve, the less likely SPP is to mandate controlled interruptions of service. There are many ways you can make an impact:
- Unplug unused devices.
- Turn your thermostat down by a few degrees.
- Put off using appliances such as your washer, dryer, dishwasher or vacuum.
- Turn off unnecessary lights.
- Put blankets, towels and pillows in the windowsills and doorways to keep cold air from coming in.
Factors affecting the shortage of electricity
A combination of factors caused rolling blackouts, or controlled service interruptions, across the Southwest Power Pool region on Monday, February 15, and Tuesday, February 16. The factors contributing to this situation are:
- Prolonged subzero outdoor temperatures created unprecedented demand for electricity. The SPP has never had a winter demand like this before.
- Wind farms make up a large part our generating mix and they were out of service due to the freezing temperatures, limiting electricity supply.
- Natural gas is also a major source of electricity generation and some of the wells and pipes that supply generating plants froze, which caused a shortage of natural gas, further limiting electricity supply.
Members have asked how we determined which areas received outages during the mandated controlled service interruptions. On Monday, Feb. 15, the outages were brief and mainly impacted rural areas to avoid turning off as many residential members as possible. On Tuesday morning, TCEC was ordered to shed 11 megawatts or about 10 percent of its total load for several hours. To limit the impact as much as possible, our operations team reviewed which substation circuits can be turned off to meet the requirement. We tried to limit the outages to 30 minutes or less for each area and spread them as evenly as possible across the service territory. We didn’t look at individual meters but rather substation circuits, or feeders as they are also known.
TCEC installed a generator when we built the new facility in 2015 and purposely oversized it. This allows us to backfeed electricity to certain accounts in Hooker when outages occur, specifically keeping the Love’s gas station and Dollar General on to allow for food and fuel to be available. This two-megawatt diesel generator is running and actually being used as a resource for the electric grid right now.
What happens next
Until the SPP returns to normal operations, which will hopefully be within the next 2 days, TCEC continues to work to limit the impact of controlled service interruptions on its members. We receive very little notice to shed load but will push messages to the cooperative’s website at www.tcec.coop and Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and via email as quickly as possible.
To prepare for more potential planned outages, TCEC urges the public to make sure phones and other electric devices are charged at all times, keep flashlights with batteries on hand, have several blankets, sweaters, gloves and coats at the ready, and have a “go kit” with food, water, medicine and other must-haves in case you need to head to a local warming center. If outages are occurring in your area, there is no need to report the outage. Members can visit our Facebook page for updates, as we do our best to post updates on the areas experiencing power interruptions. If you suspect equipment failure or other issues, please do report the outage through SmartHub or by calling TCEC at 580.652.2418.
Rest assured, after this event passes that TCEC will work with the Southwest Power Pool to determine what can be done to avoid something like this happening in the future. We are the only distribution cooperative with a CEO who serves on the SPP member committee.
Unfortunately, in the coming weeks we will also be working to help members understand unusually high energy use (and bills) due to the extremely cold temperatures for an extended period of time. We will provide this information on our website and social media channels.
Cooperation Among Cooperatives
We have sent a mutual aid crew of five linemen to help Taylor Electric Cooperative by Abilene, Texas, where they have had some actual ice storm damage in addition to the power shortages in the ERCOT market. ERCOT stands for Electric Reliability Council of Texas and is the regional transmission organization for Texas like the SPP is for Oklahoma, Kansas, and other states.
Thank you to everyone who conserved energy
“We can’t thank our members enough for their patience during the outages as well as their work to conserve energy during this time,” said CEO Zac Perkins. “This situation has never happened in our 75-year history and we will do everything possible to avoid this in the future.”
Anyone with questions regarding their electric service should contact TCEC at email@example.com or 580.652.2418 from Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.