What Are Rolling Blackouts? And How Long do They Last?

Rolling Blackouts: What Are They and How Long do They Last?

Many people are familiar with blackouts. These unexpected power outages can knock out electricity in an entire area for a few minutes or a few days. 

Rolling blackouts sound similar, but they’re different than regular blackouts in a few key ways. Keep reading for a rundown on what rolling blackouts are, why they are needed, how they are managed and your chances of experiencing one this year. 

What is a Rolling Blackout?

A rolling blackout is a temporary power outage that is purposely done. The blackout is arranged so that it’s only in certain areas for a limited amount of time. They are called “rolling” because the outage moves from one area to the next so that power isn’t out for too long in any one location. The purpose of a rolling blackout is to balance out the electric grid so it doesn’t get overloaded and lead to a larger, uncontrolled power outage. 

How is a Rolling Blackout Managed? 

Rolling blackouts are done on purpose and they are managed when the demand of electricity exceeds the power supply capability. Since there’s usually little notice before a rolling blackout is needed, systems need to be in place so that utilities can act quickly. 

Below is a quick overview of the steps that are taken before, during and after a rolling blackout to minimize the impact on end consumers. 

  • Electric grid operators constantly monitor power supply. If the supply dips below a certain threshold the utilities will be notified that load needs to be reduced. 
  • The utilities look for ways to reduce the load to balance out the supply. 
  • Utilities may determine that a rolling blackout is needed. In some cases, the state agency overseeing the electric grid will determine rolling blackouts are necessary. If possible, the utility will send out notifications and alerts about when rolling blackouts could occur. 
  • The electric grid will be monitored during the rolling blackout to determine when things have balanced out enough to completely restore power.


How Do Rolling Blackouts Help?

A rolling blackout helps preserve a balance between the supply and demand for the accessibility of electricity. Without the rolling blackouts, the harm could result in a grid failing. Therefore, the power grid needs to be safeguarded against these possible load variations to prevent everyone from losing power.


How Long will Rolling Blackouts Last?

The strength of the disturbance will determine how long a rolling blackout lasts. Typically, the electric company will try to shorten the time that outages last in each location. Limited energy capacity or poor transmission infrastructure are the two leading causes of rolling blackouts.


Who is Likely to Experience Rolling Blackouts

Rolling blackouts are a common occurrence during the summer in some parts of the country, but what about the Northeast and Midwest where the temperatures are a little more temperate? What are the odds that you’ll experience a rolling blackout in this region? 

Texas energy officials braced state residents for rolling blackouts at the beginning of summer. Even California warned that rolling blackouts were a distinct possibility in certain areas, which has been the case the last two summers. Farther northeast the temperatures aren’t as extreme and record-breaking. It’s less common to experience rolling blackouts in this region of the country and there haven’t been warnings that it could happen, but it’s possible. 

Who in a service area experiences the blackout could be sheer luck of the draw or it could be based on location. Utilities try to manage rolling blackouts so that one area doesn’t experience it more than others, but the top priority is reducing strain on the electric grid as quickly as possible. However, some areas may not experience rolling blackouts for logistical and safety reasons. These areas include downtown centers and neighborhoods with hospitals or medical centers. 

A rolling blackout can be inconvenient, but it’s much easier to deal with than a full blown blackout if demand outpaces the electricity supply. One thing end users can do to help prevent the need for a rolling blackout is to reduce energy use during peak demand hours. In most areas, electricity demand is highest from 4pm to 9pm, however, the on-peak electricity hours can range from 7am to 11pm.

READ MORE: Learn How to Reduce Your Load Factor

Consumers can also avoid a temporary power outage with a backup generator. This is highly recommended for customers that rely on medical equipment since they can be affected by rolling blackouts.

No matter what happens with the grid, you can rely on predictable electricity prices with a fixed-rate electric plan from Major Energy. Check out our resource center for more information on how to prepare for blackouts and what to do if the power does go out.

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