I-Team: Why didn’t we get warnings of rolling blackouts?


Jeremy Rogalski /11 News

Posted on February 3, 2011 at 2:08 AM

Updated Thursday, Feb 3 at 2:08 AM

HOUSTON -- One Texas Public Utility Commissioner is pledging to launch a post-mortem examination of what went wrong after no notification was given about rolling blackouts Wednesday.

The plants that generate power and the state's power grid managers failed to alert everyone they're required to notify that trouble was on the way.

 The State spent plenty of energy telling Texans to be prepared for the winter blast,
but what about the powers-that-be at the state's power grid.

"It particularly troubled me because both ERCOT and generators had so much advance notice,” said PUC commissioner Ken Anderson. “It's not as if this weather was a particular surprise."

So it was a surprise that 50 power generating units statewide went down. The last time Texans encountered rolling blackouts (April 2006) only seven generators were lost.
"The number is unprecedented, and that is one of the questions that the commission is going to need to look at," Anderson said.

Another question the Public Utility Commission will tackle: Why ERCOT didn't follow protocol in sending out that electricity reserves were running critically low.
The PUC received one advisory at 3:20 a.m. Wednesday, but the next update it got from ERCOT came at 6:05 a.m. --nearly three hours later, when the rolling blackouts were already underway.
Steps in the middle were missing --like alerting the media – 11 News was not forewarned as required, and 11 News viewers were not either.

"We need to know why, and if the reasons aren't good, and if they don't deal, relate to reliability, then it's not acceptable," Anderson said.

While a formal investigation won't likely begin until the bad weather has cleared ERCOT may face some tough initial question as early as Thursday morning at regularly scheduled meeting of the PUC.