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Winter Storm Updates, February 2021

 Winter Storm Updates, February 2021

Update, Wednesday, Feb. 24:

While the price per kilowatt-hour will not change on Co-op members’ next bill, members will likely see larger bills due to due to consuming many more kilowatt-hours during the recent Arctic blast.

As you probably know by now, almost all of Sam Houston EC’s 6,000 miles of power lines are in MISO (Midcontinent Independent System Operator), which spans from our area in the south, up through the middle of the U.S. Utilities in MISO did experience power outages and increased wholesale power costs during the recent extreme cold, but not as severe as the outages and price spikes seen in the Texas ERCOT grid.

Because Sam Houston EC is located outside of the ERCOT deregulated electricity market, our Co-op members are not subject to the extreme wholesale price spikes and the type of pricing plans that are causing some ERCOT consumers to potentially pay hundreds of times more for electricity they consumed during the severe cold. And because Sam Houston EC is not-for-profit, consumer-owned, and financially sound, the Co-op can take steps to mitigate the effects of higher wholesale power costs by spreading them out over time.

Sam Houston EC purchases power through ETEC, a generation and transmission cooperative, which utilizes a diverse and balanced portfolio that includes electricity generated by natural gas, coal, renewables, and purchased power agreements. This approach helps to maintain stable power prices for our Co-op members, and it helps to reduce the impact of wholesale price spikes during major weather events.

So while the intense Arctic blast didn’t leave the Co-op completely unscathed, we will come through it far better than most. For that, and for you our Co-op members, we are thankful.

Update, Tuesday, Feb. 23:

With record-high electricity consumption during the recent Arctic blast, many consumers are understandably concerned about their next electric bill. Our mySamHouston online tool and mobile app can help.

  • Go online to www.SamHouston.net (or use our mySamHouston mobile app)
  • Login to your mySamHouston account.
  • Click My Usage
  • Click Usage Explorer
  • Click Daily view
  • Click the button beneath Date Range
  • Click Unbilled to view usage not yet billed.
    • You can also click Current Bill to see your most recently billed usage.
  • Click Usage under Type to view kilowatt-hours used, or click Cost to see an estimated cost for that day.
    • Point to any bar on the graph to display totals, as well as the average temperature for that day.

Important note: If you were without power at any point during the winter storm, the My Usage screen interprets that as a time when meter readings were unavailable. So, it inserts an estimated consumption figure to display on the screen. This is strictly for estimation purposes on the My Usage screen. Rest assured that no kilowatt-hours were registered during power a power outage, and you will be billed only for kilowatt-hours that actually passed through the meter and were consumed at your location. The My Usage screen provides a good estimate, but the billing system utilizes only actual meter readings at the time of billing.

With all the varying information being shared, it can be confusing for consumers. mySamHouston provides the information you need to have a better understanding of how the recent record cold weather affected your electricity consumption. Got questions? Give us a call.

Update: Thursday, Feb. 18:

The worst of an extraordinary cold weather event is behind us. We are thankful that power has been safely restored to all of our Co-op members, and we wish the best to those across the state still coping with power outages. There has been much in the media regarding Texas’ ERCOT power grid and the impact the extreme cold will have on electricity prices. Almost all (99 percent) of Sam Houston Electric Cooperative’s system is in MISO (Midcontinent Independent System Operator), which extends from our area in the south, all the way up through the middle of the U.S. Only 1 percent in the northernmost part of the Co-op’s area is in ERCOT.

So while MISO did experience extreme high electricity demand and consumption, as well as power outages, it is expected that MISO area consumers will not see the dramatic price increases that are expected in ERCOT.

Sam Houston Electric Cooperative consumers’ demand for electricity over the past few days has been at record levels. To see how much electricity your home consumed during the cold weather, login to your mySamHouston online account or use the mySamHouston app on your mobile device. You will be able to see daily and hourly energy consumption, as well as temperatures.

If your power was out at any point, you may notice significantly higher usage immediately after power was restored. Heat pumps, which are normally efficient in our climate, are much less efficient when temperatures drop below freezing. Electric water heaters begin reheating water, and other appliances come back on. For this reason, you may notice increased usage after power is restored.

So, with Sam Houston EC being in MISO, we don’t expect to see the dramatic price increases ERCOT customers may experience. However, consumption of electricity has been at record levels, so many Co-op members may see higher bills due to using more kilowatt-hours. Check your mySamHouston account for more information. And call us at 800-458-0381 if you need assistance.

Update 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 17:

Sam Houston EC crews and contractors have restored service to more than 40,000 members since Monday. We understand it is incredibly cold outside, but we urge members to conserve energy. The extreme temperatures are still putting a strain on the grid. Please turn down thermostats to 68 degrees or lower, avoid washing dishes or clothes, and turn off or unplug non-essential lights and appliances. We appreciate your help. Stay safe, and report outages to 888-444-1207. Thank you.

Update 1:30 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 17:
Temperatures are a bit warmer this afternoon, at least for a few hours. There are some smaller outages scattered throughout the area. Most of these outages are due to ice and broken limbs on powerlines. The outage currently affecting southeast Tyler County and northeast Hardin County was caused by a tree that fell on the lines. Crews are onsite now, removing the tree and restoring power. Sam Houston line crews are out there working all across the system. And our member services staff has been working virtually since the bad weather set in earlier this week. We certainly appreciate all their efforts as well. On both Monday and Tuesday, they received calls and assisted more than 3,000 Co-op members each day. So far today MISO has not required Sam Houston EC to reduce load. Reducing load when the temperatures drop again tonight is a possibility. We are keeping an eye on the freezing rain, as ice accumulation can cause outage problems. But things are looking better for now. Stay warm and stay safe.

Update 10:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 16: At this time, there are no more mandatory load reductions / rolling blackouts being required of Sam Houston EC. If this changes at some point and MISO requires additional load reductions, we will post updates as we receive them. As noted previously, another round of winter weather is heading our way, with potential for up to a quarter-inch of ice in some areas. Electricity demand will remain high during the cold weather. Conserving energy in our homes and businesses helps reduce strain on the grid during periods of high demand, and it helps to reduce electric bills. Thank you for your patience, and thanks to our dedicated linemen and all our employees for your commitment to serving our Co-op members through this extraordinary winter weather event.

Update 7:25 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 16: Sam Houston EC has just been required by our regional grid operator to temporarily reduce more load, and areas impacted include Point Blank, Waterwood, Oakhurst, Dodge, Riverside, and surrounding areas. After service is returned to those areas, we may be required to temporarily reduce load in other parts of the service area.

Power has been restored to 24,000 consumers since last night. Sam Houston EC crews are working throughout the system to continue to restore power to other outages and coordinate the load reductions that are being required due to limited power generation availability in some areas.

This evening into tomorrow will continue to be a serious situation for East Texans. The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Warning from this evening until Thursday due to freezing rain and cold temperatures.

This will cause electricity demand to stay high and increase the potential for outages caused by ice. Ice can weigh down powerlines and trees, which can cause lines to break or other equipment to fail.

These conditions can also make the roads impassable, further delaying restoration.

Please stay safe, stay away from any down power lines, and use generators or other heat sources carefully.

Update: 1:15 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16: A bit of good news this afternoon. The load reductions that we expected to be required by MISO (Midcontinent Independent System Operator) a few hours ago will not be necessary. Sam Houston EC is now receiving generation from Entergy power plants that will allow us to restore service to a good portion of our members who are currently affected by outages. As mentioned previously, our linemen are stationed throughout the system to coordinate bringing sections online, rather than entire circuits all at once. This will take some time, but it will allow for a more stable restoration of power and will reduce the likelihood of overloading entire circuits as they are re-energized. There is the possibility of additional load reductions required by MISO, but for now the news is positive.

Note: Sam Houston EC is a distribution cooperative and does not directly own any power generation facilities. The electricity the Co-op delivers to members comes from power generation facilities owned by other entities. 99 percent of Sam Houston EC’s territory is located in MISO. There has been much in the news regarding the ERCOT power grid that covers most of Texas. Only 1 percent of Sam Houston EC’s system in the ERCOT grid (near Diboll and Huntington). That said, MISO (which extends from our area, all the way up through the middle of the U.S.) has been experiencing issues much like ERCOT has been experiencing throughout this historic cold weather event. We appreciate your patience as we coordinate our efforts with MISO and Entergy to restore power.

Update: 11:15 a.m. Tuesday, February 16

Power has been restored to 9,000 consumers since last night. Sam Houston EC crews are working throughout the system to restore power and coordinate the load reductions that are being required due to limited power generation availability in some areas.

While power is being restored in some areas, we are still being required to reduce load in other areas until temperatures rise and enough generation is made available for Sam Houston Electric Cooperative to deliver to our members.

Areas that potentially may be impacted by load reduction for the next couple of hours include Point Blank, Waterwood, Oakhurst, Dodge, Riverside, Cape Royale and surrounding areas. After service is returned to those areas, we may be required to reduce load in and around Shepherd for a couple of hours.

Our hope is to keep any interruptions to a minimum. This all depends on the availability of power generation and is subject to change on short notice. As we receive information we will pass it along to you.

Update: 7:20 a.m. Feb. 16: Of the 16,805 meters showing to be out on our outage map this morning, approximately 15,000 are off due to load reduction, also known as load shedding. This was initially referred to as “rolling blackouts,” which is the term the media frequently uses to describe such events. However, due to problems at power plants and other issues around our part of the state, some of these interruptions could not “roll” as planned. This has been the case throughout Texas and much of the country as well.

Compounding matters is the fact that so many heaters and large appliances come on at the same time as power is restored. This creates overload situations as circuits have trouble balancing out immediately after they are energized, which can sometimes result in them going right back off. To deal with the overload situation, the circuit must be brought online in smaller increments. This requires more time, but it is sometimes necessary in order to avoid overloading.

As two power plants near Willis came back online last night, we were able to bring more Co-op meters online. With this morning’s even colder temperatures, there remains the possibility of additional load reduction / shedding. Our hope is that all the power plants that supply electricity to Sam Houston EC will run at normal capacity.

In the meantime, our crews are working to restore power safely.

With so many variables and moving targets during this extreme weather event, providing solid projections has proven very difficult. We will, however, do our best to inform you as power restoration efforts progress.

Update: 6:30 p.m. We have been informed that the Co-op will next be required to reduce load in the upper part of our service territory, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Generally speaking, this is from Polk County and to the north and east, and potentially in some areas to the west. It is expected that these load reductions could last approximately four hours. This event, often referred to as load shedding or rolling blackouts, is necessitated by the extreme cold, along with high power demand. All of Texas and much of the U.S. is experiencing the same issues brought on by the unprecedented weather.

The areas that have been under load reduction over the last several hours are expected to come on slowly as the rolling blackout moves to the other parts of the Co-op's service area. After an area has experienced a rolling blackout, restoring service is a process. In order to reduce stress on the electrical system, the area will be brought back on incrementally and in sections. Additionally, ice may cause problems during restoration at individual locations, which will require crews to restore service to those locations. Report outages at 888-444-1207.

Update: 2:20 p.m. Monday, February 15, 2021: Sam Houston Electric Cooperative will shortly be required to shed more load (rolling blackouts) due to the extreme cold and high demand for electricity. The primary area impacted will include the counties of San Jacinto, Walker, Montgomery, Liberty (west half of the county), Trinity and Polk. As of this time, we do not have a specific length of time for these outages, although they could last a few hours. Additional information will be shared as we receive it. Our line crews are still out working to restore power to areas where there are outages not related to the rolling blackouts.

11 a.m. Monday, Feb. 15: As demand for electricity in Texas continues at record levels, power generation facilities are working hard to produce the power needed. Currently ERCOT (the grid that serves most of Texas) and MISO, which serves most of Sam Houston EC’s area, have both initiated rolling blackouts.

MISO (Midcontinent Independent System Operator) determines the amount of load Sam Houston EC must “shed” at any given time. These events typically last less than an hour. In addition to the required rolling blackouts, some outages have been caused by ice and snow. Co-op crews are out there working to restore power. They are, however, having to travel slowly due to icy road conditions. As always, you can follow the restoration via our outage map in our mySamHouston app, or online at https://outage.samhouston.net/maps/OutageWebMap/

6:25 a.m. Monday, Feb. 15: Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) is requiring us to reduce load on the western side of our system. Our hope is to keep interruptions to a half-hour, then restore power and roll to another area if required to do so. There are other areas where outages have been caused by ice and snow. Crews are accessing those areas and making repairs as conditions are safe to do so. Please see our outage map viewer for more details. https://outage.samhouston.net/maps/OutageWebMap/

9 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 14: Texas is experiencing record high electricity demand. We can all help out by turning off unneeded lights and lowering our thermostats to 68. Let's all stay safe and stay warm.

3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 14: Taking small steps to conserve energy during extreme cold helps with grid reliability. It also reduces the amount of electricity consumed, and that saves money on your energy bill. You can check your mySamHouston account online or via the mobile app to track your electricity use by the day or the hour.

These steps include:

  • Turn down thermostats to 68 degrees or lower.
  • Close shades and blinds to reduce the amount of heat lost through windows.
  • If you feel a draft around a door or window, roll a towel and use that to block the draft.
  • Turn off and unplug non-essential lights and appliances.
  • Remember to use space heaters carefully- they can overheat or overload a circuit. They also can use a great deal of energy in a short amount of time.