El Paso spared rolling blackouts partly due to being outside ERCOT system

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EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Like the rest of Texas, the border city of El Paso was slammed by the winter storm that has gripped much of the nation. But unlike the rest of Texas, El Paso has not been subjected to ongoing widespread power outages.

El Paso, the westernmost city in the state is not part of ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages 90 percent of the flow of electric power to customers in Texas.
El Paso gets its power from El Paso Electric, which on its website published a large red banner letting customers know that.

“EPE is not part of the ERCOT system,” the notice says. “Any advisory published by ERCOT does not apply to EPE customers.”

There are dozens of Texas counties that, like El Paso, are not part of the ERCOT system. Most of them are in the panhandle and the far eastern part of the state. But the majority of Texans — some 26 million customers — are, and millions of them are without power after a historic winter storm in which all 254 counties were under winter storm warnings on Sunday

ERCOT faced criticism as 4 million Texas were still without power on Tuesday after planned rolling blackouts were never brought back online.

In an interview with KXAN, ERCOT’s CEO said they are trying to get people’s power back on as quickly as possible.

Bill Magness, said that in order to do that, ERCOT needs to be able to safely manage the balance of supply and demand on the grid.

“As hard as these outages are, they avoid a much more catastrophic situation,” Magness told KXAN.

El Paso Electric has also been able to avoid rolling blackout thanks to lessons learned during a historic freeze the essentially shut down the city 10 years ago, officials said. El Paso Electric officials say that includes having more crews on-hand, better protection for freezing conditions and new power-generating options.

“It is difficult. No one likes it when you have an outage. We did obviously have some customers that were impacted but it was minimal when you compare to the rest of the state and country that’s facing something very dire,” said Eddie Gutierrez, an El Paso Electric spokesman. “For us, it’s really a story about geography, preparing for new and better technology and new generation.”

Gutierrez said thousands of El Paso customers did lose power for a short period on Sunday.

But others, like Lilian Guerrero, an El Paso native who now lives in Houston, weren’t so lucky.  

Guerrero told KTSM she woke up with no electricity in her apartment, her thermostat sitting at 56 degrees all day.

“Everything in my apartment is electric so nothing is functioning in my apartment, including obviously the heater,” Guerrero said. “It’s about 56 degrees in my apartment, so it’s just been miserably cold.”

Gutierrez said El Paso Electric will continue preparing for the future with more forms of power generation, including natural gas and battery sources.

On Tuesday, Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan requested a hearing to review the factors that led to these power problems, saying Texas “must cut through the finger-pointing and hear directly from stakeholders.”

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