Downtown Austin glowed bright while thousands went without power. It’s ‘complicated,’ Austin Energy says.

Downtown Austin glowed bright while thousands went without power. It’s ‘complicated,’ Austin Energy says.

While hundreds of thousands of Austin homes were without power Monday night amid outages mandated by Texas grid operators, the downtown area remained glaringly alight.

‘Basically we’re stuck here’:40% of Austin Energy homes without power amid failed ‘rotating blackouts’

Many shared photos of the area on social media asking why presumably empty office buildings were kept lit despite mandates from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas to conserve and cut power.

One image shows a firm divide in power between downtown and East Austin, the city’s historically Black and Hispanic neighborhood.

Austin Energy released a statement on downtown’s exclusion from the outages on Tuesday saying:

“This is a complicated, inter-connected network which includes critical buildings like the Dell Seton Medical Center, warming centers, the COVID-19 Alternate Care Site, Capitol Complex and Austin City Hall, as well as other critical infrastructure and government buildings. Shutting down the downtown network would also cut off electricity to these critical buildings, which may also house vital communications equipment.”

The company ended the statement saying it will be looking for additional ways to conserve power in the downtown area moving forward.

The Downtown Austin Alliance also made a request of downtown buildings and residents in an email Tuesday morning asking them to, “Please turn off all nonessential electrical uses – including building lights, especially exterior ones.”

The group reportedly reached out to owners of more than 50 of the area’s largest buildings to urge conservation and is in the process of contacting hundreds more, the American-Statesman’s Phil Jankowski reported.

Many across the city are looking at another night without power, and Austin Energy says any further mandates from ERCOT could lead to cutting circuits powering what the company considers “critical infrastructure” – like the downtown area. Austin Energy refused to release information for a map of the city indicating grids that fall under this designation when asked by American-Statesman reporters Tuesday.

Your guide:Everything you need to know about Texas’ winter storm, power crisis

Some of the company’s biggest industrial customers, including Samsung, NXP Semiconductors and Infineon Semiconductors, had their power completely shut down late Tuesday.

Across the state, millions of Texans continue to go without power and ERCOT operators declined to say when they expect operations to return to normal during a press conference Tuesday afternoon.


Melody Meadows

Based in Euless, Texas, Melody Meadows is a Chief Editor at Business Journal.  Previously  She worked for Crain Media and Yahoo News.  Ms. Meadows is a graduate of University of Texas at The University of Texas at Austin. Ms. Meadows started working for Business Journal in 2020.  She covers business, government, politics and stories about economics.