Consumers and businesses are asked to reduce their electricity use during peak electricity hours from 3 to 7 p.m. today (and the the next few days) to avert the need for rotating outages.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, Inc. (ERCOT), system operator for the state's bulk transmission grid, initiated Energy Emergency Alert Level 2 at 2:26 p.m. Thursday due to responsive reserves below 1,750 megawatts (MW).

"Interruptible loads - large customers paid to be dropped in a level 2 emergency have been deployed," said Kent Saathoff, vice president of system planning and operations.

"Capacity is expected to be very tight over the peak today - particularly between 4 and 5 p.m. We are asking consumers and businesses to reduce their electricity use as much as they are able during peak electricity hours from 3 to 7 p.m.," Saathoff said.

Consumers can help by shutting off unnecessary lights and electrical appliances, minimizing the use of air conditioning and delaying laundry and other activities requiring electricity-consuming appliances until later in the evening.

Power Warnings are issued by ERCOT when there is a high risk that rotating outages will be needed to reduce load.

The emergency procedures are a progressive series of steps that allow ERCOT to bring on uncommitted generation and power from other grids. If the situation does not improve, ERCOT will first drop load resources (a market-based demand response program) and other resources under contract to be interrupted during an emergency. Only as a last resort to avoid the risk of a complete blackout does ERCOT ask utilities to reduce demand by dropping load through rotating outages.

Rotating outages are controlled, temporary interruptions of electrical service initiated by each utility when supplies of reserve power are exhausted. Without this safety valve, generators would overload and begin shutting down to avoid damage, risking a domino effect of a region-wide outage.

The outages are typically limited to 15-45 minutes before being rotated to a different neighborhood. Some customers may experience longer outages if power surges cause equipment failure during the restoration process. Customers can minimize power surges by turning off appliances, lights and other equipment, except for one task light to determine when power has been restored.

Conservation Tips

Consumers can help by shutting off unnecessary lights and electrical appliances between 3 and 7 p.m., and delaying laundry and other activities requiring electricity-consuming appliances until later in the evening. Other conservation tips from the Public Utility Commission's "Powerful Advice" include:

Turn off all unnecessary lights, appliances, and electronic equipment.

When at home, close blinds and drapes that get direct sun, set air conditioning thermostats to 78 degrees or higher, and use fans in occupied rooms to feel cooler.

When away from home, set air conditioning thermostats to 85 degrees and turn all fans off before you leave. Block the sun by closing blinds or drapes on windows that will get direct sun.

Do not use your dishwasher, laundry equipment, hair dryers, coffee makers, or other home appliances during the peak hours of 3 to 7 p.m.

Avoid opening refrigerators or freezers more than necessary.

Use microwaves for cooking instead of an electric range or oven.

Set your pool pump to run in the early morning or evening instead of the afternoon.

Businesses should minimize the use of electric lighting and electricity-consuming equipment as much as possible. Large consumers of electricity should consider shutting down or reducing non-essential production processes.