‘If You Don't Have Power Tonight, Get to a Warm Place;' Oncor Unsure When Power Will Return

Oncor says it's unable to predict when generators will be brought back online and what power will be available to customers Tuesday night

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If you've been without power or currently don't have power, Oncor is recommending you get to a warm place immediately because there is little certainty on when electricity will be restored.

On Tuesday, Oncor warned people to not expect power to be turned back on overnight. Oncor added that when the power does return, continued rotating outages are likely.

Debbie Dennis, Chief Customer Officer with Oncor Electric Delivery, told NBC 5 Senior Investigative Reporter Scott Friedman on Tuesday afternoon that there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding when generators will be brought back online and when ERCOT will allow Oncor to restore service to customers.

That uncertainty led Dennis to advise people to find a warm space, even if it means leaving home.

"My advice is that if the power isn't back on, and it's been out a while, to find a place they can go to be warm, said Dennis. "We want to get their power back on but the generation has to come back on for us to be able to do it."

Dennis said as soon as ERCOT tells them to begin restoring load that they'll begin doing that as quickly and safely as possible, but that unfortunately they can't say when that will begin.

"We deliver the electricity. We don't own the generation. We don't control the generation. We follow ERCOT's instructions and when they tell us to add load we do and when they tell us to shed load we have to do that to ensure the reliability of the grid," Dennis said.

Once the power does come back, as it did for some on Monday night, there may still be rolling outages necessary.

Kerri Dunn, an Oncor spokeswoman, said Tuesday afternoon they were able to start more regular power rotations on Monday night for some customers but that they continued to lose generation and had to return to more prolonged outages.

Dunn said Oncor delivers electricity to roughly one-third of the state, so when the call comes from ERCOT to shed load they have plans in place to cut their share from the current demand. But that amount, Dunn said, was so large it left little room to actually do rotations.

"The amount of load they were telling us to drop, itself, was also unprecedented," Dunn said. "So it wasn't just the temperatures, it wasn't just the generation drop, it was the need to drop so much load so quickly that we no longer had the ability to keep those outages rotating. We didn't have enough people, essentially, who were able to be rotated."

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Where to rotate power outages is further complicated by the need to avoid certain areas, including hospitals, police and fire stations and other locations that are critical to infrastructure. Dunn said there are also zones she described as "areas of last resort" that they try to keep powered on, even during rotating outages, that help them restart services to all areas once the supply returns to normal.

"For Oncor, rolling outages were certainly our intention, and that was the plan, and we have been able to implement some of those, however all of that planning did very quickly change," Dunn said. "Once the generation comes back on … those are the areas we hope to target first."

Dunn added that customers should expect rotating outages to continue over the next few days where people be without power for 30-45 minutes before power should return.

Dennis said when they started cutting power overnight Sunday Oncor received nearly 1 million phone calls between midnight and 8 a.m. Monday. By comparison, Dennis said they took a total of three million calls all of last year.

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