Thank you for hanging tough with us.
Especially to those of you that were without power for extended times. We were extremely fortunate that our system fared exceedingly better than most in Texas and many in our region. Part of that was thoughtful power planning and system design, attentive maintenance, and then there was the good ole hard work in the bitter elements. But much of it is attributable to the fact that our members listened, and then worked together to conserve and help reduce demand. Also, we must extend a big thanks to AEP, our transmission provider, for not assigning us a load shed event which would have caused rolling outages for our members. We were on the call list and came very close to experiencing this. Lastly, we can’t underestimate good luck and a heaping amount of grace that we avoided big amounts of ice on the lines.
We did have several smaller outages, which our crews addressed as they came. Then, we had two significant outage events that we’d like to explain. Both were caused by record high demand and overload, as was seen across our state and the country during this devastating weather event. Both substations affected were built and are maintained with load forecasting at the forefront to insure they would not only meet, but far exceed the highest expected demand place on them by consumer use. Extraordinary demand exceeded everything expected, and that wiggle room we’d built in.
What Happened at WCEC’s Two Substations
The first failure happened at our Sand Springs substation that serves 2,136 meters in Wood County in the Mineola and Sand Springs area. And the second was a problem at our substation in Monticello region that interrupted service to 905 meters in Franklin and Camp Counties. When an overload event such as this happens, restoration is lengthy. Small loads must be added back incrementally. As each new load is added, crews must wait for the system to stabilize before adding more. Sometimes, as they add a circuit, it will kick back off causing blinks or another outage. That meant they had to wait and try again.
You to need to know, our crews never stopped working. They worked through the night and around the clock until power was restored to the last household.
We hope it’s not something any of us will face again. We have already performed after-event assessments and we will be making some adjustments where we can, which will increase reliability for the substations affected.
What Happened Across the State
This weather event, and the effects of it on the Texas electric grid, are drawing international attention, and most of that news is about the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which oversees the power grid for over 90% of Texas. In addition to ERCOT, there are two other authorities that regulate small portions of Texas. They are the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), which regulates a section of Deep East Texas, and the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) which regulates a section in far northeast Texas. WCEC gets its power from the SPP market. All of these authorities faced record setting high electricity demand caused by record low temperatures. Adding to that, the electricity supply was reduced because there were failures by natural gas producers, whose equipment can’t operate in such frigid temperatures. Then, coal, nuclear and wind generation facilities also had some weather related issues to further limit capacity. The historic demand, with low availability is what forced these entities to issue rolling blackouts. But those were not the only problems, many electricity providers suffered quite a bit of storm damage.
At WCEC, we saw some minor storm damage, but nothing like our friends and neighbors across the state. We were able to restore most of our smaller outages fairly quickly. And, as we mentioned before, SPP did have some rolling outages, but AEP, thankfully did not assign any to WCEC.
In any market, supply and demand drives prices. At WCEC we don’t expect to see dramatic price increases, but because electricity consumption hit record levels, there will be a small adjustment to the PCRF in the coming days. As we know what that is, we will announce it, but rest assured, we will keep it as small as possible. Please remember, we are a non-profit cooperative. We do not mark up the power costs or make a profit on it. This increase is driven by what it cost to buy the fuel to generate the electricity.
Also, record use levels for the past few days mean many will see higher bills based on higher kWh use. If you are concerned about this, you can look at your usage levels for this weather event by logging in to your account online or via the app. If you need help with this, just give us a call at 903-763-2203. Remember, we work for you, and we want to help. We have average billing and debt management solutions that we can suggest.
Planning. Hard Work. Grace. Extraordinary Luck. These are the things that every employee and board member at WCEC are grateful for. We also think we have the best members on the planet, and we are very thankful for each of you. You were patient, thoughtful and kind, and we could not be more appreciative. We work hard for you every day – some days more than others – but it is our biggest pleasure.