Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

January 7, 2014

Officials: No worries of electric shortages

Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress

CHEROKEE COUNTY — As wind chill factors make below-freezing temperatures feel even colder, East Texas residents can rest assure they won't be at a loss for power to keep their homes and workplaces warm.

The Energy Reliability Council of Texas reports reserves “are normal,” said Oncor area manager Tom Trimble.

ERCOT maintains the reliability of the electricity grid in the state and “help market participants fulfill customers' electric service needs by maintaining a balance between load and generation,” according to the outfit's website.

On Monday, a public notice on its website reported that the grid was operating under normal conditions, although “conservation (was) encouraged.”

“It looks like their reserves are normal,” reiterated Trimble. “They apparently had a power plant that had a hard time coming on in South Texas this morning, and they've watched it pretty closely, keeping an eye on the load on the system, but as far as right now, everything is normal.”

Heavier usage of power to heat residences and workplaces are a natural concern, and occasionally, brown-outs are known to occur, he said.

This is due to something called resistance heating, “when the heat pump gets to a certain level” to maintain heat in a building, but then kicks into something known as “resistance heat,”  which can stress a system as it strives to maintain levels of production. “And that's when people see their bills go up in the wintertime,” Trimble said.

If colder temperatures spread over a long period of time, “where it was very, very cold outside – from single digits to the teens – we would see a lot of stress on the system, but right now? Everything looks good with ERCOT, and it's something that we monitor on a daily basis,” he said.

Should a system stress occur, ERCOT would most likely schedule power “brown-outs,” in which power outages would roll in 10 to 15 minute increments, rather than completely shut off, or “black-out,” Trimble explained. “But brown-outs are not very common, whether in the summer or in the winter.”

The National Safety Council recommends the following tips for preparing for winter:

• Change smoke alarm and carbon monoxide batteries once a year, test detectors each month, and replace detectors every 10 years.

• Clean your chimney and fireplace before using.

• Check your furnace and heating system: Install and maintain heating equipment correctly, and have professional inspect the furnace before the start of the cold-weather season to ensure safety.

• Do not store newspapers, rags or other combustible materials near a furnace, hot water heater, space heater or any other appliance where it can catch fire.

• Learn how to properly operate a space heater, which can become the most dangerous appliance in your home if used improperly. Do not operate space heaters while a room is unoccupied; when in use, make sure there is a minimum of three feet between the space heater and anything that may burn, including walls. Also, do not use an extension cord as a power source for an electric space heater: The high amount of current they require could melt the cord and start a fire.

• When lighting a gas space heater, strike your match first, then turn on the gas.

• Never use a gas range as a substitute for a furnace or gas heater.

• Prepare your vehicle for winter use by ensuring that it has been regularly serviced. Check tire tread and air pressure; make sure to top levels of antifreeze to protect the vehicle's engine; use de-icer wiper fluid solution to ensure that spray doesn't freeze.

• Prepare for a winter emergency with a winter survival kit, whose link can be found at www.nsc.org.

• Be prepared for ice, snow and cold temperatures: Have shovels and de-icer available to remove snow and ice from sidewalks, driveways and parking lots. Also, don't forget to pack hats, scarves and gloves to help prevent frostbite.

• Check your fire extinguisher, and recharge or replace as necessary.

Tips courtesy of www.nsc.org