UPDATE: What you need to know about Austin Energy’s outage situation

February 15, 2021

Why Some Customers Have Power

Because Austin Energy was mandated by ERCOT to shed so much load to help reduce demand, non-critical load circuits are without power. The parts of our service area experiencing outages are based on the status of the circuit they’re on. Areas with power likely share a circuit with a critical load circuit. Critical load circuits include hospitals, control centers, 911, the airport and water/wastewater plants and are not subject to outages.

Why We Can’t Rotate Outages

The large amount of electricity demand we’ve had to reduce has impacted our ability to rotate outages among customers and some of our customers have been without power since early Monday morning. In normal emergencies, we rotate outages throughout our service area. Unfortunately, we are unable to rotate outages at this time because there are no other available non-critical load circuits to put into outage rotation. The bottom line is that electric load must be reduced statewide in order to fully restore service across the ERCOT grid, and Austin Energy is following ERCOT’s direction.

Record Energy Use Across Texas

This emergency stems from the ongoing, prolonged and widespread frigid weather occurring across the state. This is causing the state-wide electric system — managed by ERCOT — to be strained by high demand and low operating reserves. Operating reserves are low when the capacity of available resources, such as power plants, only slightly exceeds anticipated customer demand across the ERCOT system.

An emergency can also be caused by a sudden drop in generation, due to one or more sudden and unplanned power plant outages caused by extreme weather such as a severe freeze.

When Power Will be Restored

ERCOT has stated outages may last through tomorrow afternoon. ERCOT will let utilities, including Austin Energy, know when we can start restoring power to customers. We will follow their guidance and will operate safely to restore as many customers as we can, being mindful of outage duration.

However, this is an ongoing weather emergency. The ice and road conditions are still a factor and the safety of our crews and customers is top of mind.

Cold Load Pickup

When power is restored, circuits can become overloaded because of lights, electronics and thermostats left on prior to the outage. This is called cold load pickup and can cause a second outage. Customers currently without power can help us avoid cold load pickup by:

  • Turning off their thermostats.
  • Turning off or unplugging any fixtures or appliances.
  • Only leaving on one light to indicate when the power is back on.

Watch the City of Austin multi-department news conference from Monday afternoon (including remarks from Austin Energy General Manager Jackie Sargent). You can follow grid conditions at ercot.com.

Please continue to monitor Austin Energy on Twitter, Facebook and our website for updates.

ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, manages the flow of electric power to more than 26 million Texas customers, representing about 90 percent of the state's electric load. As the Independent System Operator for the region, ERCOT schedules power on an electric grid that connects more than 46,500 miles of transmission lines and 680+ generation units.