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City Says it Can't Give Neighborhoods Advance Notice During Those Rotating Energy Cutoffs

Callie Hernandez for KUT

People are being urged to continue conserving energy, as temperatures remain below freezing.  ERCOT, the state's grid operator, says the state's electric emergency situation has ended.  Energy generation reserves are in better shape today than they were yesterday.  Still, folks have a lot of questions about Wednesday's rolling power outages.  Specifically, some KUT listeners thought Austin Energy did a bad job of communicating what was going on Wednesday. 

"We had employees and patients and doctors sitting around doing nothing half the morning," said Ron Coldiron, the general manager of Far West Optical.  He says they shut down yesterday afternoon because they didn’t get fast enough word that the outages were ending. “They could have alerted their commercial customers on a schedule of rolling blackouts and we could have been participants in it, instead of victims of it. ”

Coldiron says he would have liked Austin Energy to have been more specific on its website about which parts of town were going to be affected at what times and for exactly how long.  Austin Energy does have a power outage map, showing where outages are occurring. But, as far as advance notice goes, Mayor Lee Leffingwell says the utility's system is not set up to do that.

“I mean it’s impossible for the city to notify individual neighborhoods in advance of exactly when their blackout is going to occur, the key thing is early knowledge to inform every customer in the city that those blackouts may occur,” said Leffingwell. 

At a press conference yesterday, the Mayor said the big problem was that the city didn’t get timely notice from ERCOT.  He said that would have erased some of the uncertainty and everyone could have been given notice sooner that this was coming.

The Austin-Travis County Emergency Operations Center is now shifting more of its focus to possible snow. There’s a fifty percent chance for snow tonight and into tomorrow morning.  Sand trucks are on standby. 

Keep in mind the collection of yard trimmings will be suspended in Austin again Friday.  Several Solid Waste Services trucks are having maintenance problems so the yard trimming trucks are needed to help out.