Texas is the nation’s largest electrical energy producer, yet an estimated 4 million houses, 12 million people, still have no electricity as freezing temperatures from a record setting winter storm lingers over Texas. Gov. Greg Abbott says ERCOT and utility companies are doing everything they can and “have not to been compromised”, but some say that’s not true.
ERCOT said in a statement, "This event was well beyond the design-parameters for a typical or even extreme Texas winter that you would plan for.” However an ERCOT statement a few days before the winter storm hit said they have been monitoring the winter storm approaching Texas and are prepared for it. In a statement yesterday, ERCOT said there was nothing they could have done. Yet a similar winter storm in 1998 and again in 2011 showed just how poor the state’s utilities and power producers are prepared for freezing temperatures, when those two previous storms also knocked out power across large parts of Texas.
As in 1998 and 2011 and this time around, natural gas power plants were not properly winterized according to David Tuttle of the Energy Institute of the university of Texas. He says following the 1998 and 2011 winter event, the Public Utilities Commission of Texas issued reports recommending that state electricity producers take steps to winterize their equipment and pipelines. It never happened. Tuttle says had they winterized, we would not be in the situation we are in now.
With some power plants failing due to the winter storm, and some wind turbines freezing, the state lost 33,000 MW of power, or enough to power 6 million homes in normal times. This forced state utilities at the request of ERCOT to start rolling blackouts, but once those blackouts started, those in the dark still haven’t reemerged despite utilities companies around the state saying these are just short rolling blackouts. Adding to customer frustrations were that utilities providers, ERCOT and everyone else failed to put out timely as to what has happened or the progress they might be making or any updates at all in the case of one state utility, CenterPoint Energy.
There is also pent up rage among some who say some areas of Texas never experienced a “rolling blackout” and continue to have power. In Both the DFW metroplex and in the Houston area, about one-third of houses went into the so called rolling blackouts, but never came out while the remaining never went into a rolling blackout and continue to have power.
8 hours into the blackout and the utility provider’s website stopped working and their only tweets were hours hold and simply said they are doing a rolling blackout with power outages to last about 30-45 minutes. Houston and Dallas are hardest hit. But large areas in the Rio Grade Valley near the Mexico border are also without power.
“The fact is, we have 2 previous incidents of winter storms hitting our state, and both times, reports from subsequent investigations showed utilities providers and energy producers just aren’t doing enough to winterize their equipment” says Jane Anderson, a former Department of Energy expert on electrical grid operations. “The fact that ERCOT and state utilities say they did all they could is simply not true. Texas has never required state energy producers to winterize their plants like in other states.”