WCEC’s Load Shed Plans and Details

Essential information about electricity loadshedding and how it may affect you.

Electricity provided to WCEC comes from two Regional Transmission Organizations (RTO), the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) and the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas, (ERCOT). These RTOs are mandated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to ensure reliable and sufficient power supply to meet demand and capable transmission infrastructure. While ERCOT oversees most of Texas, WCEC only has one large industrial meter within ERCOT and the rest of WCEC’s meters fall within the SPP.

An important aspect of RTOs is to balance supply and demand along the infrastructure they oversee. An electric grid is dynamic, and it ebbs and flows constantly. At the lowest level, every time someone turns on a light switch, a washer, a dryer, or any other piece of equipment, power is being demanded and drawn. There are substations that feed different segments of the grid. Communities in those segments are using various levels and amounts of energy at any one time.

Upon occasion there can be an imbalance between available electricity and the demand for electricity. There are several causes for this, such as extremely hot weather or extremely cold weather that have driven demand to exceed capacity. Or some needed generation has gone offline for any number of reasons, or there may be damage to a section of the grid. Whatever the cause, an imbalance can threaten the whole infrastructure. To relieve stress and avoid long-term damage and outages, the RTO puts their load shed plan into practice and this, in turn, can impact local electricity distributers like WCEC.

First the RTO will issue an Emergency Energy Alert (EEA) to the electricity distributors to signal there is a problem.  There are three levels of EEA with the first two signaling to electricity distribution organizations like WCEC that forecasted load is approaching the available generation, and a load shed event may be eminent. The last alert level is EEA3, and it requires load shedding.  The RTO determines how much load needs to be removed.  That gets pushed down to AEP/SWEPCO, the prominent Transmission Operator in the area.  They then decide how much load each member of our Generation and Transmission (G&T) provider must remove from their distribution system. Then our G&T will inform the individual distribution cooperatives like WCEC and others, what amount of load they need to shed to help restabilize the grid.

WCEC has a load shed plan.  Our plan strives to offer continuous service, when possible, to the most critical infrastructure such as hospitals, water utilities, natural gas facilities and emergency services. These systems are generally further down on the list for load shed. Even so, as needs and the dynamic nature of unfolding events take place, decisions are made in the moment with the information at hand.

Once an RTO has announced a power grid emergency, or given an EE Level 2 alert, . This message will be communicated through various available means and as time permits: released to news media, sent via direct text/email to members, posted on social media and placed on WCEC’s website.

If everyone does their part, quite possibly, a load shed event, or rolling blackout, can be avoided by all. But, if the grid continues to be unstable, as a last resort, our RTOs may instruct WCEC to execute controlled outages by stopping the flow of electricity to certain areas to reduce demand on the grid. In this circumstance, controlled outages ensure the integrity of the RTOs grid and are needed to prevent a system-wide long-term blackout.

WCEC is obligated to immediately implement its load shed procedures to help stabilize the grid and avoid damage. Because a load shed event is an emergency order from the RTO, WCEC will not have detailed information to be able to inform individual members if or when they will lose power, or for how long.

During load shed, every effort will be made to provide a system-wide warning, when possible, but emergency circumstances do not always allow for notification.

At WCEC we do prioritize continuity of service for those loads deemed critical to the well-being of the community during an emergency such as hospitals and other emergency services. However, every member, including those deemed critical load, should always assume that their power could go out without any advanced warning at any time.

It is the responsibility of every member to make their own arrangements for alternative sources of electric power in the event of any outage or planned load shed event. It is crucial that all members who are dependent upon electric-powered medical equipment, and especially those on the Critical Care List, to formulate a solid back-up plan to ensure their own safety in the event of power loss. Those on the Critical Care list can and may lose power during controlled and uncontrolled power outages. They are not excluded from rolling blackouts or the load shed plan, or any unplanned outage. Anyone dependent upon, or with a family member dependent upon electricity for life-sustainment, is responsible for having and implementing their own back-up plans to insure wellness and safety of themselves or dependents.

In extreme power emergencies, our RTO could require WCEC to shed large amounts of load over extended time periods. In this case, when possible, WCEC will rotate outages across the system, so any one area is not burdened by lengthy outages. However, depending on the circumstances, WCEC may not be able to rotate outages. If this occurs, some meters could be without power for an extended period. Therefore, it is imperative and incumbent upon every member to have a backup plan that ensures their own safety based on their reliance on electricity for sustainment of life.

During an electricity curtailment or load shed event, WCEC is required to comply with RTO instructions for the duration of the event.

WCEC cannot control the varied circumstances or reasons for a load shed event. We always work hard, and it is our biggest desire, to provide reliable electricity 24/7, but this is not always possible. There are many reasons for outages, and we will always work hard, night or day, to restore power as quickly and safely as possible. We will also work hard to keep our members informed in the event of any large outages, and or rolling blackouts or load shedding events.

To ensure you are on the receiving end of any load shed information, or any other critical information that may affect you, we ask all our members to make sure their contact information remains updated with us including correct telephone numbers and email addresses so we can reach you when it matters. Of note, we will never sell your information or use it to solicit to you. If you have had a change, please update your information with us here.

We will work to keep our customers informed using press releases to local media outlets, social media, and direct communications to you when possible. Also, 24/7, members may see real-time outage information on our outage map here.

The procedure for a customer to apply to be considered a critical care residential customer can be found here.