How Austin Energy Prepares for Power Outages
Your Safety is Our Priority
No one wants a power outage or the unsafe conditions that can come with one. However, weather disasters keep coming with bigger storms that last longer and damage power equipment. Power outages can even occur on the brightest of sunny days due to animals, construction incidents or car crashes interfering with power lines. Austin Energy is one of many City of Austin departments that works to stay prepared and helps you stay safe in case of an outage.
How does Austin Energy prepare for and handle power outages?
Ongoing equipment maintenanceAustin Energy crews work on 12,000 miles of power lines year-round. This work includes replacing and repairing equipment and installing new equipment where needed. Regular maintenance and upgrades helps keep the local grid more resilient.
Austin Energy’s expert tree trimming work helps keep our community safer and more ready for storms. Weather and trees cause more than one in three outages in our area.
- During windy and stormy weather, swaying and broken tree branches can rub against wires or bring down power lines.
- In extreme cold, ice adds heavy weight and brings wires in contact with trees which may also lead to down power lines and power outages.
TechnologyAustin Energy installs technology throughout the service area. Some technologies are small, like smart meters on homes and businesses. Some are large, like the software systems connected to the power grid and equipment that let us monitor operating conditions. This type of technology is essential to keeping the power on and working to restore power if it goes out.
Outage Map and AlertsAustin Energy uses industry-standard technology for our online Outage Map. Learning to use this important tool in advance, as well as registering for Outage Alerts, can help you stay safe and informed during an outage emergency. Outage Alerts allow you to quickly and easily report outages and get status updates by text message. You can manage your Outage Alert preferences through City of Austin Utilities Online Customer Care.
Watch a video to learn more
Medically Vulnerable Registry
Every utility decides how best to help their customers. Austin Energy has chosen to offer a Medically Vulnerable Registry, especially to help customers with medical conditions that could become life-threatening during a power outage. These customers work with a designated team member in advance of a power outage emergency to establish a personalized emergency backup plan.
Staff training and schedulesAustin Energy hires and trains skilled staff to prepare for and work outage emergencies. From field crews to technical experts to customer service professionals, Austin Energy management ensures emergency planning across every applicable department to support customers during a power outage. Austin Energy ensures 24/7 staffing during these emergencies to troubleshoot, repair and communicate about outages.
Austin Energy communicates with customers before, during and after power outages. Austin Energy sends information through standard channels ahead of and during smaller outages. If weather predictions show the potential for widespread and long-lasting outages, Austin Energy communications expand to use even more channels. You can stay informed by:
- Tuning into local news on radio, TV or online
- Visiting Austin Energy on Facebook and Twitter
- Bookmarking the Current Conditions page
- Visiting the outage map
- Signing up for outage alerts
- Ensuring Austin Energy has your current cell phone number and email address in your COA Utilities account notifications settings and outage alert preferences, or by calling 512-494-9400.
Work with business customersJust like homeowners, business owners want to keep their power on. Austin Energy works with local businesses to address their energy needs. Business owners notify Austin Energy of critical infrastructure that needs 24/7 operation. Small and mid-size business customers can follow the outage map and outage alerts for updates during an outage emergency. Austin Energy Key Account customers can reach out to their Austin Energy contact ahead of and during a power outage emergency to stay informed.
Work with other City of Austin departmentsAs a City of Austin department, Austin Energy stays connected with other City departments before, during, and after power outages. That means working with departments such as Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the Communications and Public Information Office, Development Services, and Austin Water to help with information sharing, repair work, and communications work.
Relationship-building with other utilitiesAustin Energy works with groups such as the American Public Power Association and the Texas Public Power Association to stay connected with other public power utilities. This lets utilities share best practices in operations and communications. In the event of extreme outage emergences, Austin Energy is usually the one to help other utilities. That changed with the natural disaster that came with Winter Storm Mara, where utilities across the country came here to help us. This ongoing relationship management helps our community and our partners in delivering electricity to the American public.
Learn how Austin Energy restores power
Why You May Lose Power and Why an Outage Takes Time to Fix
It’s never ideal or convenient for the power to go out. You might want to understand why the power went out, why an outage can take so long to fix and how Austin Energy restores power. No matter the type of outage, Austin Energy crews will work hard to safely get your power back on.
There are three types of power outages you could experience at your home or business: Planned, Unplanned, and Controlled Outages.
Planned OutagesPlanned outages are necessary to perform maintenance and repairs on electric infrastructure and equipment. Planned outages are also used for some scheduled tree trimming. Austin Energy will notify customers at least 48 hours in advance of any planned outages and restore power as quickly and safely as possible.
Austin Energy will also check five days prior to verify if any Medically Vulnerable Registry customers are affected and will work to ensure those customers have emergency plans in place for planned outages.
When outages are planned, you can expect to receive a door hanger and/or a letter in before the outage.
Unplanned OutagesUnplanned outages can have many causes — severe weather, vehicle crashes, trees, animals, construction accidents or equipment failure. When an unplanned outage occurs, multiple crews and first responders may be involved to ensure everyone works safely to de-energize the scene and make needed repairs.
Depending on the cause, some outages may take more time to repair than others. For example, an ice storm can add hundreds of pounds to a single power line. An ice storm hitting miles and miles of power lines across the city can be devastating, as we all experienced during Winter Storm Mara. Ice can weigh down lines and even snap brand-new power poles in half.
Sometimes more than one outage can occur on the same line, so fixing one outage is not enough to get the power back on to an entire neighborhood. Safely restoring power as quickly as possible is important to Austin Energy and every staff member working to help.
You can check progress of repairs for unplanned outages, along with hazardous areas to avoid, on the Austin Energy Outage Map.
Controlled Outages - Statewide Grid Events
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) controls statewide grid events — sometimes known as controlled outages or load shed events.
When the demand on the grid is too high and supply can’t keep up, ERCOT may need to balance the energy load by requiring utilities to “shed load.” Austin Energy must do what ERCOT requires. That can mean controlled power outages for our community.
This type of energy demand reduction or energy conservation action is a last resort. Statewide grid events help the reliability of the whole Texas electric system. The timing of these outages depends on grid conditions and ERCOT direction.
These outages should be brief. They can last longer depending upon the amount of electricity generation being delivered to the grid and other conditions affecting the grid statewide. During this time, Austin Energy works to rotate outages to the extent possible, but the ability to do so depends on the severity of the emergency conditions.
Statewide grid events are not named on the Austin Energy Outage Map, but they do show up as outages. During these types of outages, Austin Energy will post alerts and status on the map. Austin Energy will also post current status and information on the Austin Energy website and social media accounts. Austin Energy will also share the ERCOT requirements with local media to help keep you informed.