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Austin Energy doesn't expect more shutoffs as triple-digit heat continues this week

Wires extend between tall polls at an Austin Energy electrical station in Southeast Austin.
Gabriel C. Pérez
An Austin Energy substation in Southeast Austin.

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High temperatures caused 3,600 Austin Energy customers to go without power in Southeast Austin on Saturday, but the utility doesn’t expect more outages this week as temperatures continue to soar.

The outage, which started around 3:30 p.m., wasn’t planned, nor was it at the request of the state’s electrical grid operator to avoid overloading the system. Austin Energy spokesperson Matt Mitchell said the incident stemmed from a spike in demand amid triple-digit temperatures that overloaded a circuit off Slaughter Lane. That demand couldn't be spread across neighboring substations, so the utility decided to shut off some customers' power.

"It risked further damaging the infrastructure in that part of Austin, and potentially causing a much longer outage and affecting thousands of more customers," Mitchell said. "So, it’s never an easy decision. It’s always a last resort, and we felt like this was really the only option available to us to prevent further harm from the infrastructure and further harm to a broader number of customers.”

Austin Energy said service was restored by 7:30 Saturday evening.

Mitchell said the utility is not expecting similar issues this week as demand is expected to rise as temperatures hover around 100 degrees. Last weekend, Austin Energy had two circuits and a transformer that were offline for scheduled maintenance ahead of the utility's peak-demand season. Those circuits and the transformer are now back online as of Monday.

Austin Energy expects a new substation in the area near Bluff Springs to open June 10, which Mitchell said will address issues related to the overloaded circuit going forward.

Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
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