What to Do If Your Power Goes Out

We’ve been experiencing extreme weather events lately, including an onslaught of storms that have been knocking out electrical power. Winter can be an especially hard time to deal with a power outage, especially if your home relies on electrical power for heat.

When the power has unexpectedly gone out, there’s no need to panic. You can do a lot of things to prepare, and keep your family safe and warm during and after a winter power outage.

Preparing before a power outage

The weather is unpredictable. You need a good energy plan. You also need to be prepared so that you can keep your home from turning into a freezer during an electrical power outage. The good news is that you can do something about it right now.

  • Buy some flashlights, invest in a battery-operated radio and make sure that you’ve got plenty of batteries. Another handy device you’ll want is a 3-in-1 hand crank radio, flashlight and phone charger. Store these items in a place that’s easy to get to and be sure to check them periodically.
  • Stock up on bottled water.
  • Insulate your home before the cold season arrives. Caulking and weather-stripping doors and windows can prevent freezing drafts from entering.
  • Power outages can be lengthy. It’s a good idea to have other heating equipment, such as a wood-burning stove. Be sure to have plenty of firewood and fuel on hand and have it located in a well-ventilated space. It’s also a smart idea to have a wood chimney cleaned and inspected before winter. The warmest room in the house is where your family will want to gather and weather the storm.
  • Invest in some candles and stock up on matchbooks so that you can still have light. Since you’re going to want to stay warm, move all your activities to one room. It doesn’t hurt to have a deck of cards on hand so you and your family can pass the time and stay entertained.

What to do during a power outage

Okay, so the lights are out, and you’ve got everyone at home. Now it’s time to keep them safe. You’re prepared and ready to weather the winter storm and ride out the electrical power outage like a team of champs.

  • Conserve the heat inside your home. An excellent technique to keep the heat from escaping is to roll up a towel and place it at the base of the door. You’ll also want to gather up some blankets and hang them over the door for an added layer of protection from the cold.
  • Did you just go grocery shopping? Don’t worry, the food in your refrigerator can stay cold and is safe to eat for up to 4 hours. Frozen food can last for 24 and up to 48 hours (depending on how densely packed the freezer is).
  • If you have a portable gas generator, never run it inside the garage, house or in an enclosed area.
  • Remember all that firewood you gathered? It’s time to fire up the fireplace! Try not to use all the firewood too quickly — conserve wood by burning it in intervals, and let the room cool between fires.
  • Turn off computers, TV and other electronics to avoid a power surge once the electrical power returns. You’ll want to leave at least one light on — that way, you’ll know that the power is back on. Once your electricity is up and running again, make turning off unused electrical devices a part of your energy plan routine.
  • There’s no doubt that a winter power outage can be stressful. For seniors, the stress level is higher and can even be deadly. Make sure any elderly or disabled person is dressed warm, covered up well or kept near the fire.
  • If you have a tent, consider putting it up inside your home (if you have enough space). A tent adds another layer to protect you from the cold air. Plus, depending on how many loved ones you have around, being in a tent makes it easier to capture body heat and stay warm.

What to do after a power outage

Harsh weather can do more than create a loss of electrical power in your neighborhood. Heavy winds and downpours can cause significant damage. For this reason, you’ll want to be extra cautious if you need to venture outdoors.

  • If possible, wait until the day to go outside. You’ll want to assess the damage before you go too far. A harsh winter storm can knock down electrical wires, and you may not be able to spot them. It’s best to assume a downed line is live, which is highly dangerous.
  • Be a good neighbor and check in to make sure they’re safe.

You’ll feel a lot better knowing how to keep your family safe and warm when the harsh, unpredictable weather arrives. Plus, knowing how to conserve heat can also be an essential part of your winter energy plan so that you can lower your winter energy bill.

Texas Electricity Rates to Go Up In 2018

****Update Fall 2018****

Good News!

Texas electricity rates are on their way down again.  After a summer spike, electricity rates across Texas have fallen.  Utility officials were concerned about having enough electricity to meet peak summer demand.  This resulted in electricity providers increasing the rates on their fixed rate plans in anticipation of higher wholesale electricity prices.

Now that summer is over and the feared power shortages never materialized, rates are back down.  Now is a great time to lock in a great rate if you are not under contract.

For example, Bounce Energy has a 6 month plan for just 8.4¢/kWh in the DFW area (9.2¢ in Houston area).  If you have a larger home, Frontier has a plan targeted for the 2,000 kWh usage rate at just 7.3¢/kWh.

***Original Story****

Texas electricity rates are expected to go up in 2018 as the state’s electricity grid experiences growing pains.  2018 will see the closing of a number of coal fueled power plants.  Coal has been giving way to cheaper electricity fuel sources for a number of years.

The growth in wind power and natural gas fueled power will offset the loss in coal over time but for the summer of 2018, expected record demand for electricity will converge with power plant closures to put a squeeze on wholesale electricity rates.  This, in turn, will cause the retail electricity prices paid by most Texas consumers to increase. The rise in wholesale rates could be particularly dangerous for consumers who have electricity plans that are tied directly to the wholesale price of electricity.

The rise in prices could be felt more in areas like Houston.  Houston electricity rates tend to be higher that rates in the Dallas / Fort Worth area.  Average summer temperatures also tend to be higher in the southern part of the state.

Reserves to fall below comfort level

The state of Texas typically targets a reserve margin of 13.75%.  This means that the available supply of electricity should exceed the projected peak demand for electricity by at least that amount.  This give a cushion for unforeseen spikes in demand or lose of capacity such as could be experienced during a large storm.

The most recent projections by ERCOT put the reserve margin during the summer of 2018 at 9.3%.  This number is expected to climb to 11.7% by the summer of 2019 as newer power plants come on line.


See Also: Hurricane Harvey’s Impact on Texas Electricity Grid
See Also: Oncor Proposes Electricity Rate Increase for Many Texans


Oncor Proposes Electricity Rate Increase for Many Texans

Oncor-Electricity-MapOncor Electric Delivery Company has filed a request with the Texas Public Utility Commission to increase electricity rates for those in its delivery area.  This is primarily North Texas which includes Dallas, Fort Worth and surrounding cities.  It also includes parts of Central Texas including Temple and Killeen as well as parts of Western Texas including Midland and Odessa.

According to the company, the proposed rate increases are necessary to offset nearly $8 billion dollars spent by the company on upgrading and operating the electric grid as well as expansion into newly covered areas.

Oncor is one of a handful of regulated Transmission and Distribution Utilities (TDUs) in the state of Texas, each of which holds a regional monopoly on the transmission of electricity which is bought by retail electricity providers such as TXU and Reliant and resold to consumers.

ONCOR doesn’t bill consumers directly.  The flat and usage based fees charged by Oncor for electric delivery are passed through to consumers on their electric bills which come from Retail Electricity Providers in Texas.

If the proposal is approved, a typical residential consumer would see their electricity rate go up about .5 cents per kWh.

See Also: Texas PUC Agrees To Electricity Fee Rate Hike


Solar In, Coal Out, In Texas Electricity Grid

Going forward almost all new electricity in Texas will come from renewable energy sources – primarily solar energy.  This is according to a report released by the agency responsible for maintaining the Texas electricity grid.  Once the dominate sources of electricity in Texas, coal has been on its way out for a number of years.  Due to a combination of market forces and federal regulations, coal can no longer compete with other sources or power.

The report looks at a number of possible scenarios to project the makeup of the Texas electricity market over the next 15 years.  The scenarios include High Economic Growth, Recession, and Extended Extreme Weather.

Under every scenario solar energy is the predominate theme. It seems that solar energy is finally having its moment in the Texas sun.  Today the state gets a tiny percentage of its energy from solar power.  According to the latest projections, this amount will soar to around 17% in the next 15 years.  Practically all of the gains in solar will come at the expense of coal.

Solar energy projections Texas

The Texas deregulated electricity market is designed to allow competition to keep electricity rates low.  The largest component of electricity rates is the wholesale price of electricity paid to the producers from retail electricity providers.  The fact is, electricity generated by solar power is now cheap and getting cheaper.

This is not just a Texas phenomenon.  Worldwide, solar energy is expected to be the cheapest source of new energy over the next 15 years.  Between now and 2040, 43% of new capacity worldwide is expected to come in the form of solar.

Pressure on coal is not coming just from competition from clean energy sources.  Tough federal regulations will continue to have their intended effect over the coming years.   Over the next 5 years alone, 5 gigawatts of coal power will be leaving the Texas electricity grid because of the EPA’s “regional haze rule”.  Against this, 14 to 28 gigawatts of solar power are expected to come on line in Texas over the next 15 years.

See Also:  Enough Electricity In Texas For Spring As Renewable Energy Surges

See Also: Wind Energy Provides Cheap Electricity In Texas


Wind Energy Provides Cheap Electricity In Texas

The U.S. Energy Information Administration, a government run agency responsible for collecting, analyzing and reporting on energy related matters, is predicting that Texas will continue to break records for electricity provided by wind power.

Peak Texas Wind Electricty

This is not a bold prediction considering that the state has recently put together a string of new all-time highs for wind energy output based on peak supplies of electricity being fed to the state’s grid.  Recent record wind days include the following:

  • October 22, 2015 – 12,238 megawatts
  • October 21, 2015 – 11,950 megawatts
  • September 13, 2015 – 11,467 megawatts
  • February, 2015 – 11,154 megawatts

There are a number of factors at play that are contributing to the recent all-time highs.  This autumn in Texas has been unseasonably warm and windy allowing for the perfect conditions to make use of the state’s large and growing portfolio of wind turbines.

Already the largest producer of wind electricity in the U.S., Texas continues to see more capacity brought online month after month.  This is thanks in large part to generous subsidies paid by the federal government to encourage investment in wind turbines.

One could make the case that the continued growth in wind power is due entirely to government subsidies when you consider that during a period in 2013 and 2014 when the subsidies were allowed to lapse, installation of new wind capacity in Texas and the rest of the country virtually ceased.  The eventual renewal of the subsidies in 2014 saw an immediate resumption of investment in new wind energy capacity in Texas.

Texas Wind Capacity

Unlike fossil fuel sources such as coal and natural gas, the production cost of electricity from wind is almost entirely front loaded in the cost of putting up the turbines.  After they are up, the incremental cost of each additional watt of electricity is negligible.   This, coupled with the bonus money paid by the government for each kilowatt of electricity produced from wind can lead to some very cheap energy for Texas consumers.  In many cases, it leads to free electricity.

To compare electricity providers who offer cheap and sometimes free electricity plans visit vaultelectricity.com

Texas Power Consumer Complaints On The Rise, Reports TCAP

A recent analysis by the consumer advocacy group Texas Coalition for Affordable Power (TCAP) shows that consumer complaints filed with the state’s Public Utility Commission (PUC) have risen again in 2014, after four years of decline.

In 2002, Texas became a “Power To Choose” state, and deregulation of the electric utility sector began. Following its commencement, consumer complaints spiked, going from an annual total of more than 2,000 in 2001 to 8,500 the following year, and 17,250 in the first full year of deregulation. In 2009, the total number of complaints was still nearly 16,000, but a decline began that bottomed out at 7,129 in 2013, a considerable drop from the post-deregulation spike but still a 300% increase over pre-deregulation totals. In 2014, the figure has risen to 7,608.

The downward trend for complaints in the prior few years could be attributed to customers’ becoming more familiar with navigating the different available plans and the process of switching providers to get the best fit, thereby cutting down on dissatisfaction. It could also simply be because low prices for natural gas kept electricity rates correspondingly low, and people are less likely to complain if they don’t feel they are paying too much. JD Power and Associates, a company that rates customer satisfaction, issued a report last year showing that customer satisfaction with power providers was at an all-time high since deregulation, and that customers in deregulated areas of Texas were more satisfied than customers in areas of the state that were not yet deregulated. It’s easy to reason that opening up the field to retail competition would tend to encourage good customer service, lest people flock to another provider.

So what explains the uptick in complaints, for the first time in four years? One culprit, single-handedly responsible for 7.5% of complaints, is “switch-holds”, a controversial practice instituted in 2010 that froze customers’ ability to switch to another power company until they settled outstanding bills owed to their current provider. Also, 11% of the complaints filed have been about meters. This figure may correlate to the rollout of new digital “smart meters”, as complaints tend to surge when new rules or equipment are introduced, according to a PUC spokesman. Other possible factors, according to industry representatives, may be the growing population of Texas and the ease of filing complaints online, but TCAP still notes that complaints are considerably higher now than before deregulation and notes that the situation is still “worth monitoring”, as it seems customers are still showing frustration with the market.

See Also: Texas Electricity Providers Perform Well In Survey



New Plan To Export Texas Electricity To Other States

A California based energy company has developed a plan to export Texas electricity to other states.  Seen as a way to make use of the state’s abundant supply of wind energy, the proposed 400 mile transmission line would be the first of its kind.  It would transmit Texas power from a point just east of Dallas to Louisiana and Mississippi.

The Texas electric grid is separate from the other major North American grids.  Texas generates more wind energy than any other state.  Because wind power by its nature can be unpredictable, the state sometimes finds that wind turbines produce more electricity than the state can use at any given time.  This could especially be true at night when temperatures tend to drop and wind tends to blow more.

Pattern Energy Group, the company responsible for the proposed new line, plans to be able to send up to 3,000 megawatts of electricity out of the Texas grid to neighboring states.  The company would use an affiliate, Pattern Power Marketing, to purchase wind power from Texas producers and sell the power to electric companies in other states.

The project is only made possible by the recent completion of massive new transmission lines that were designed specifically to bring electricity from West Texas were most of the state’s wind energy resources are to the more populous eastern part of the state.  If the plan goes through it could be completed as early as 2019 at a total cost of up to $2 billion.