By Caroline Vandergriff

AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Key ERCOT leaders gave new details to the Public Utility Commission of Texas about what led the council to ask Texans to conserve energy this week, during a meeting Thursday, June 17.

Outages at multiple power plants on Sunday, June 13, forced ERCOT to call on the available generators in the state.

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“We are more conservatively operating the system at this point, by making sure that we have more reserves online, all the time,” said Woody Rickerson, ERCOT’s vice president of grid planning and operations.

Rickerson said an unexpected number of breakdowns at traditional power plants started happening on Sunday.

“What caused those outages, the mechanical failures?” Peter Lake, chairman of the PUC, asked at the meeting. “Why was all this machinery breaking at the same time? Because it put us in a tight spot, and we’re still in a tight spot.”

ERCOT still hasn’t identified the exact cause of all the mechanical issues.

Calling on Texans to conserve energy just four months after a massive power outage affected millions in the state caused a lot of worry.

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“The electric power grid in Texas today is the same grid that was there from February,” said Ray Giuliani, a former vice president and chief of market operations for ERCOT.

Giuliani says the organization lacks accountability and can’t control what the state’s privately-run power generators do.

“The biggest misconception is its name,” he said. “It’s not the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. To look to them for reliability, it’s just not right.”

He’s hopeful that will eventually be improved with new pieces of legislation aimed at reforming ERCOT signed into law this week, but Giuliani expects we’ll see more conservation requests this summer.

“To put it in context for everybody, there were body blows being dealt to the grid and our systems still maintained with only a conservation advisory going out,” said Will McAdams, a PUC commissioner. “Not an alert, which is an important nuance.”

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ERCOT says the actions it took were out of an abundance of caution, and going into Monday, Texas had all the power it needed.

Caroline Vandergriff