An energy emergency occurs when the amount of stress on the grid means that ERCOT can’t balance electricity supply and demand using normal procedures. Declaring an energy emergency means the grid operator will start using special resources to prevent outages.
There are three levels of energy emergencies, which the grid operator calls EEA1, EEA2 and EEA3.
During EEA1, ERCOT may call on all available power supplies, such as tapping into power from other neighboring grids. Under EEA2, the grid operator can reduce power to large industrial customers, such as manufacturing facilities, refineries and cryptocurrency miners, among others. EEA3, the most critical form of energy emergency, is the only time when residential customers may begin to experience outages.
Energy conservation requests are separate from energy emergencies. If ERCOT has put out an energy conservation alert, it means the operator hasn’t yet moved into EEA1 conditions, but may do so in the future. If an energy emergency is called, consumers are asked to continue conserving as much energy as possible if they’re able to safely.
The three levels of energy emergencies are meant to help ERCOT prevent an uncontrolled systemwide outage before it occurs, which almost happened in February 2021 when extremely cold weather shut down power plants across the state and drove up energy demand as residents turned up the heat.