The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) manages the flow of electric power to more than 26 million Texas customers -- representing about 90 percent of the state’s electric load. As the independent system operator for the region, ERCOT schedules power on an electric grid that connects more than 46,500 miles of transmission lines and 710+ generation units. Texas' main electric power grid is a network of more than 46,500 miles of long-distance, high-voltage transmission lines and substations that carry bulk electricity to multiple utility companies for distribution to their customers. This grid, which has 86,000+ megawatts of available generation capacity, delivers approximately 90 percent of the electricity used by more than 26 million consumers in Texas.
During times of high electrical usage, energy emergencies or major events, ERCOT may request that we alert our members and ask for energy conservation.
Energy Conservation Measures include:
- Turn down thermostats to 68-degrees in winter
- Close shades and blinds to reduce the amount of heat lost through windows.
- Turn off and unplug non-essential lights and appliances.
- Avoid using large appliances (i.e., ovens, washing machines, etc.).
- 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.
Curtailment priorities, procedures for shedding load and rolling outages
As a last resort during energy emergencies or other major events, ERCOT may instruct utilities, including Big Country Electric Cooperative (BCEC) to reduce consumer demand for electricity by shedding load through implementing outages, also known as curtailment.
BCEC will only curtail power to its members during emergency situations that require a reduction in load to prevent the statewide electric grid or our electric system from failing or to prevent damage to equipment and property. BCEC's priority will be to shed load in the following order:
1. Outdoor, flood and street lighting.
2. Oil field & irrigation loads
3. Schools and churches (except those used for emergency shelter)
4. Industrial loads (gins)
5. Commercial loads
6. Residential loads
7. Medical priority accounts (members with life-sustaining equipment) and critical loads, industrial or other according to Senate Bill 3, Section 38.076.
Should conditions exist whereby rolling curtailments can achieve the necessary reduction in power required, efforts will be made to limit curtailments to approximately 1 hour for residential loads; however, due to variable and unpredictable circumstances, BCEC cannot guarantee that the duration of such curtailments will be limited to 1 hour.
BCEC will attempt to inform its members in advance of planned outages or rolling curtailments but cannot guarantee that advance notice will be possible.
Priorities for restoration of service
The first priority of BCEC in restoring electric service is to clear all electrical hazards which pose an immediate danger to the public.
BCEC will then restore electrical service in the following order to ensure the effectiveness of restoration efforts:
1. Transmission system
3. Main distribution feeders
4. Distribution laterals
5. Medical priority accounts (members with life-sustaining equipment) and critical
Loads, industrial or other according to Senate Bill 3, Section 38.076.
6. Individual loads
Emphasis will be made to restore vital community services in the following order:
1. Hospitals and nursing/assisted living homes
2. Municipal services for water, sewer, and fire departments
3. Shelters, clinics, and other medical facilities
4. Radio and television media
5. Telephone company central switch stations
6. Drug stores and grocery stores
7. Faa navigational facilities
8. Other essential health and welfare community institutions
The remaining member loads will be restored in the following order:
1. Medical priority accounts (members with life-sustaining equipment) and critical
Loads, industrial or other according to Senate Bill 3, Section 38.076.
2. Residential loads
3. Commercial loads
5. Industrial loads
6. Schools and churches (except those used for emergency shelter)
7. Oil field and irrigation loads
8. Outdoor, flood and street lighting
Medical Priority Designation and Procedures
If you or anyone living in your household uses life-sustaining medical equipment that requires electricity, please contact any BCEC office during regular business hours and let us know so that we can classify your household as a Medical Priority account. In the event of an extended widespread power outage, power restoration at medical priority service addresses will be a priority. When contacting us to request Medical Priority designation, please provide details as to:
- What the medical condition is and what type of life sustaining equipment is in use,
- The amount of backup power you have available,
- You will also need to provide written medical certification from a physician stating that the equipment in use is life sustaining.
Medical priority status does not guarantee the uninterrupted supply of electricity and is not a guarantee that you will be provided with immediate power after an outage, as no one can make that guarantee. You should always be prepared to move to an alternate location in the event of an extended power outage.
Tips for receiving outage notifications and being prepared for outages:
- Make sure that BCEC has up-to-date contact information for you.
- Use our free Smart Hub mobile app or access Smart Hub through bigcountry.coop to sign up to receive text, phone call, and/or email outage notifications and updates.
- If you need assistance signing up for above-mentioning messaging, contact BCEC during regular business hours.
- Report all outages quickly.
- Plug electronic devices into surge suppressors and consider using uninterruptible power supplies on important devices.
- A UPS (universal power supply) acts as a temporary battery backup to some devices.
- Consider investing in a portable generator that can power vital equipment in the event of an extended outage.
- Let us know if you do use a backup generator so that we can flag your location to keep crews safe while working on lines in your area.
- Keep an adequate supply of prescription drugs, medical supplies and equipment, including batteries, on hand.
Critical Load and Critical Natural Gas Designation and Procedures
Critical Loads are loads for which electric service is considered crucial for the protection or maintenance of public safety; including but not limited to hospitals, hospice, assisted living and/or nursing facilities, police stations, fire stations, critical water and wastewater facilities, and customers with special in-house life-sustaining equipment. Operators of these facilities shall contact BCEC with the following information to request designation as a Critical Load:
- Nature of the facility and what type of vital community service is provided
- The amount of backup power available
A Critical Natural Gas Facility is designated as a critical customer by the Railroad Commission of Texas under §3.65(b) (relating to Critical Designation of Natural Gas Infrastructure) unless the facility has obtained an exception from its critical status. Designation as a critical load or a critical natural gas facility does not guarantee the uninterrupted supply of electricity. Pursuant to RRC (Railroad Commission) recommendation, the following facilities be given highest priority for maintaining electric service and restoring electric service following outage:
- Pipelines that directly provide natural gas to electric generation or to local (gas) distribution company facilities
- Underground natural gas transportation and storage facilities
- Natural gas liquids transportation and storage facilities
- Gas processing plants with a capacity of 200 MMcf/day and greater
- Natural gas wells and oil leases producing natural gas in the amount of 5000 Mcf/day or greater; and
- Saltwater disposal wells, compressor stations, and control centers supporting the listed facilities.
Operators of these facilities shall follow the procedures below for designation as a BCEC Critical Natural Gas Facility by March 1 and September 1 each year:
- File Form CI-D with RRC acknowledging and certifying critical status.
- Submit to BCEC Form CI-D and Excel attachment to Form CI-D covering items such contact, specific location (including latitude/longitude), type of facility, gas production rate, and backup generation capabilities (how long, type, capacity, hours to restart after outage). One operator will list all its critical facilities on a single form.
- Once BCEC receives the critical customer information, it has 10 business days to evaluate the information for completeness and provide a written notice to the operator regarding the status of the critical natural gas designation.