State Watch

Texas governor calls for investigation into grid operator over ‘unacceptable’ power outages

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) called on the state legislature to investigate the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) after winter weather has left millions of Texans without power. 

The Texas governor released a statement requesting that reform to the grid operator be prioritized as an emergency item during the legislative session to “ensure Texans never again experience power outages on the scale they have seen over the past several days.”

“The Electric Reliability Council of Texas has been anything but reliable over the past 48 hours,” Abbott said in his statement. “Far too many Texans are without power and heat for their homes as our state faces freezing temperatures and severe winter weather. This is unacceptable.”

“Reviewing the preparations and decisions by ERCOT is an emergency item so we can get a full picture of what caused this problem and find long-term solutions,” he added. 

ERCOT is facing backlash for its management of the state’s power grid that as of Tuesday has left more than 4.1 million people in the Lone Star State without power after it was battered with record snow and subzero temperatures.  

The grid operator ordered utilities to start rotating power outages on Monday morning in order to manage the high demand for electricity, and on Monday night ERCOT instructed utilities such as Oncor to shut off more power instead of the expected restorations. 

Oncor in a Tuesday press release said that it couldn’t rotate through many of the outages Monday night because of “poor grid conditions,” which it said led to “extended periods without power for many of our customers.”

“As soon as enough generation is available, we will return to a regular cadence of rotating outages with the goal of providing any temporary relief that we can for those who have been without power the longest,” Oncor’s release said. 

“At this time, ERCOT is unable to predict when grid conditions will stabilize, and urge all customers to be prepared for extended outages to continue,” the release continued. 

In a tweet Tuesday morning, ERCOT forecasted that it could get power back for “some customers” in the afternoon due to increased wind and solar power sources and thermal generation. But the amount of restored power depends on “how much generation is actually able to come online.”

ERCOT makes recommendations to utility companies based on how much power is available to use safely, and those power companies make the ultimate decision on how to handle the energy, ERCOT CEO and President Bill Magnus told NBC affiliate KXAN. 

The winter storm has become deadly in Texas, with at least two dying of carbon monoxide poisoning in Houston and another two men found dead along Houston-area roads.

Tags electric grid Electric Reliability Council of Texas ERCOT freezing temperatures Power outages Texas Winter storm

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