Texas Faces Rolling Blackouts as ERCOT Warns Not to Use Major Appliances

Texans have been asked to conserve power amid a heatwave on Monday as the state's power grid operator warned of potential rolling blackouts.

The state faces a "potential reserve capacity shortage with no market solution available" on Monday, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) said in an operations message on its website Sunday night.

ERCOT appealed to Texans and state businesses to voluntarily cut back on their energy use between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Monday when record temperatures are expected across the state.

In a news release, ERCOT said the appeal was due to a projected reserve capacity shortage but that no system-wide outages were expected "at this time."

According to ERCOT, the total forecasted power demand is expected to be 79,671 megawatts at the tightest hour—between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.—but just 80,168 megawatts are expected to be available.

A view of high voltage transmission towers
A view of high voltage transmission towers on February 21, 2021 in Houston, Texas. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

While extremely hot weather is driving record power demand across the state, wind power is currently generating significantly less than usual, ERCOT said.

Current projections show wind generation coming in at around 8 percent of its capacity during Monday's busiest hour, according to ERCOT.

ERCOT advised Texans to turn up their thermostats a degree or two, postpone running major appliances or pool pumps during peak hours and to visit the Public Utility Commission's Power to Save website or their electric provider's websites for other conservation tips.

An ERCOT spokesperson told Newsweek: "We are not in an emergency situation. Our control room has issued a watch and we are asking for voluntary energy reduction where possible.

"If rotating outages became necessary, ERCOT would direct transmission and distribution companies to shed load/reduce demand in their areas/regions. Each area has an amount they would need to reduce demand by. It is up to them to manage the rotating outage if it were to occur. At this time, we do not anticipate this happening."

On Twitter, ERCOT's appeal for conservation prompted a wave of criticism directed at Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

Texas Democrats accused the governor of failing to take action to improve the state's power grid after a devastating winter storm in February last year left more than 200 people dead.

"Greg Abbott had the chance to #FixTheDamnGrid after Winter Storm Uri, but he chose to bail out his buddies instead," the Texas Democrats wrote on Twitter.

"So, now we've got a failing power grid in 100+ degree heat and with expected rolling blackouts across TX over the next 3 days."

Mike Collier, a Democrat running for lieutenant governor, wrote: "In the energy capital of the world, we can no longer trust that the lights will stay on. This is what eight years of Dan Patrick and Greg Abbott have done to our Texas."

It's "going to be 104 degrees all this week in Texas," comedian Sean Kent said in a tweet.

"If Greg Abbott can't fix our power grid and ERCOT people are going to die. His incompetence is gonna get people killed."

Emily Farris added: "This heat is deadly, especially in those hours. @GregAbbott_TX doesn't care about life."

In February, Abbott said the state's power grid was "more reliable & resilient than ever."

In November, he said he was "very confident about the grid" and could "guarantee the lights will stay on."

"I can tell you why, for one I signed almost a dozen laws that make the power grid more effective," he said.

Abbott's press secretary, Renae Eze, told Newsweek: "Texas has had record-setting temperatures this summer and record-setting demand on the power grid. Since May, Texas has set and broken power demand records 26 times without any systemwide issues or disruptions for the more than 26 million Texans served by the electric grid.

"The ERCOT power grid has been able to meet those challenges and respond in record ways, providing more power than ever before and doing so more efficiently, in large part because of the reforms passed last session and the increase in power generation by more than 15 percent over last year."

ERCOT's call for voluntary conservation is "one of the many tools at their disposal to ensure enough power keeps flowing," Eze added. "And each time there's a call for conservation, Texans step up and do their part to help by reducing some of the demand."

Update 6/11/22, 5:35 a.m. ET: This article has been updated with comment from an ERCOT spokesperson.

Update 6/12/22, 6:20 a.m. ET: This article has been updated with comment from Greg Abbott's press secretary.