Texas’ power grid asked Crossroads residents to turn up their thermostats and cut electricity usage twice last month, as it hoped to avoid scheduling outages.

Such a request may bring back memories of the February 2021 winter storm, which left millions of Texans without power for days.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates a power grid that serves around 90% of the state, has an array of tools it can pull out when it tries to steer clear of last year’s disaster. However it may not always be ERCOT’s fault when outages do occur.

Lightning striking a substation or a car crashing into a utility pole can disrupt the flow of electricity locally, a spokesperson with the utility company American Electric Power, which serves the Crossroads and other parts of Texas, said.

“Power outages can happen at any time of day, even when the skies are cloudless,” the AEP Texas spokesperson said.

When outages occur, AEP Texas sends updates via text and email. The utility’s Twitter account also notifies followers of widespread outages in its service area.

If electrical capacities are strained throughout Texas, ERCOT issues a conservation request. This means it’s time for Texans to bump up their thermostats, cool down with fans and close window blinds, an ERCOT spokesperson said.

By circulating its call for energy conservation among local and statewide media, ERCOT hopes its message to Texans will keep operators from taking power offline.

“We want people to know there’s a difference between conservation requests and rotating outages,” an ERCOT spokesperson said. “Rotating outages are a last resort.”

If a conservation request from ERCOT is not enough to ease load issues, grid operators will activate an energy emergency alert, of which there are three levels.

ERCOT moves to EEA 1 if it stores less than 2,300 megawatts of power for more than 30 minutes. One megawatt of electricity can light about 200 homes in Texas.

According to ERCOT’s website, it “can call on all power supplies, including power from other grids, if available” in EEA 1. In EEA 2, ERCOT can reduce system demand by cutting power from “large industrial customers” who previously allowed operators to do this in an emergency situation.

If ERCOT moves to EEA 3, rotating outages may be possible in some areas of Texas. Utility companies like AEP Texas would work with grid operators to determine how much power should be taken offline in certain cities and regions.

“If we get in an emergency situation, we post alerts on our website and local and state agencies distribute alerts as well,” an ERCOT spokesperson said.

ERCOT also provides grid condition updates on its Facebook and Twitter accounts.

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Leo Bertucci is a Report for America corps member who covers energy and environment for the Victoria Advocate.

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Energy and Environment Reporter

Before moving to the Crossroads, Leo Bertucci studied journalism and political science at Western Kentucky University.

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