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ERCOT: Controlled outages have ended, power is being restored across Texas after weather emergency
(Jimena Gamboa Bonilla)

Officials at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which maintains about 90% of the state's power grid, said that they are no longer mandating controlled power outages and are instructing utility companies to restore power. This process will take time. Some energy customers may still be without power as those companies work to bring circuits back online or because of damage caused by ice, fallen trees and downed power lines.


The reason ERCOT is now able to allow utility companies to restore power is because a number of generators have been restored since going offline earlier in the week. Additionally, with so many large customers, such as factories, shut down to the emergency, demand for power was lower than anticipated, which also helped speed up the restoration process, Senior Director of System Operations Dan Woodfin said during a press conference Thursday morning.

However, ERCOT officials did warn the public that additional power outages could be forthcoming if demand for electricity outpaces the available supply. This scenario is what triggered the controlled outages—which were intended to be rolling but, in the Austin area, have lasted for days—in the first place.

Had ERCOT not directed utilities to cut power to customers, there was a possibility that the entire grid would have collapsed, leaving the state without power for weeks—or even longer. "It was seconds and minutes," CEO Bill Magness said of the prospect of a total grid blackout early Monday morning, when hundreds of thousands of Austin energy customers—and millions of other Texans across the state—lost power.

Now that ERCOT is no longer mandating outages, Austin Energy is in the process of restoring power to its customers, prioritizing those who have gone without the longest, Chief of Staff Stuart Reilly said during a Facebook live hosted by Mayor Pro Tem Natasha Harper-Madison. As of 11:16 p.m., 56,788 Austin Energy customers—or about 11%—were still without power. This is a significant improvement from Wednesday evening, when about 27% of customers were still impacted.

(Mayor Pro Tem Natasha Harper-Madison/Facebook)

The restoration process takes time, however. Austin Energy is restoring power in sections to avoid overloading the system. As power is restored, utility companies run the risk of cold load pickup, which occurs when a circuit is restored only to be quickly overloaded by lights, appliances and thermostats left on prior to the outage. To avoid this, Reilly asked customers still without power to turn off everything except one light. Those who have power at this point should continue conservation measures.

The power crisis resulted in a water crisis in Austin and many other regions across the state. Austin Water issued a boil water notice Wednesday evening due to a power outage at its largest water treatment plant and dropping pressure across the system caused by a surge in demand precipitated by dripping faucets and burst pipes. Although power has since been restored at the treatment plant, the utility is still facing a water shortage and the boil water notice remains in effect.

"We do not yet have a timeline for when water may be restored," Chief of Support Services Anna Bryan-Borja said during the Facebook live.

Although Austin Water previously recommended customers drip their faucets in an effort to avoid frozen or burst pipes, the water shortage issue has prompted them to change their advice. Now, the utility is recommending that customers take conservation measures or turn off their water to prevent pipe problems.

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