How Texas homes get their power, who decides to turn it off

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HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — Electric Reliability Council Of Texas (ERCOT) CEO Bill Magness held a web conference to address the problems with power generation in the state, on Tuesday.

During the conference, ERCOT further explained what is taking place with the Texas power grid that caused the blackouts.

“The amount of time that people in Texas have had to be out of service for electricity, during a time of extreme cold is terrible. It is unacceptable,” said Bill Magness, ERCOT CEO.

A lot of people may not know how Texas power is generated and how it gets to your home.

There are three power grids in the contiguous United States. One for the Eastern half of the country, one for the West, and one in Texas which the majority of the state uses.

90 percent of counties in Texas receive electricity from the Texas Interconnection power grid, which is managed by ERCOT.

“Our fundamental job is to keep the grid reliable by maintaining the balance between generation and load,” explained Magness in his opening remarks during the web conference. “The balance between supply and demand.”

Here’s how electricity gets from the power plant to your home:

The electricity is created in power plants owned by one of the hundreds of power generation companies in the state of Texas.

The power can come from natural gas, coal, nuclear energy, solar power or wind turbines.

What sources generated the most power in Texas in 2019, from the Texas Comptroller website. https://comptroller.texas.gov/economy/fiscal-notes/2020/august/ercot.php

That electricity is purchased from the power generation companies by a retail electric provider, this is the company that you pay for your electricity such as Reliant or TXU.

Those companies then contract with transmission and utility companies, which are the companies that own the power lines and substations, such as AEP Texas, Magic Valley, and Brownsville Public Utilities Board.

It is the transmission and utility companies that ultimately decide who has their power turned off, and for how long when ERCOT orders demands. 

The reduced percentage demand for each transmission and utility company is “based on a set percentage that is allocated to the different utilities in Texas, primarily based on their size,” said Magness. “Then once that is given to them, it is up to those utilities to decide how to implement outages.”

Magness said that ERCOT is working with power generation companies to increase the amount of energy available over the coming few days.

When asked when he believed power would be fully restored, Magness did not give a firm date.

He said that “over the next couple of days, I think we see really good signs of progress, even though we have much work to do.”

However, on Tuesday night AEP Texas tweeted out that ERCOT had asked them to reduce demand on their system again.

Tweet from AEP Texas https://twitter.com/AEPTexas/status/1361844438490886144

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