Texas was close to total blackout for months: Official

'It was seconds and minutes [from possible failure] given the amount of generation,' says ERCOT president

Ovunc Kutlu   | 19.02.2021
Texas was close to total blackout for months: Official


US state of Texas was very close to a total blackout that could have lasted months, said the head of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) on Thursday.

"[The power grid] needed to be addressed immediately... It was seconds and minutes [from possible failure] given the amount of generation that was coming off the system," ERCOT President Bill Magness told The Texas Tribune.

ERCOT, which is responsible for 90% of the state's electric load, started early Monday to cut power from millions of homes and started rolling controlled blackouts across the southern state, leaving some 4.5 million customers without electricity and heat under severe winter conditions.

Magness said without the power cuts and controlled blackouts, electricity demand would be too high in the power grid and result in an "indeterminately long" crisis.

Millions of Texans avoided outdoors and turned up their heat to warm inside due to extremely cold weather, which increased electricity demand rapidly.

Meeting high demand became problematic with a massive decline in energy supply as natural gas pipelines froze, and gas-fired, wind, and coal plants that produce electricity came offline.

Operators had to cut the amount of power distributed, otherwise "what happens in that next minute might be that three more [power generation] units come offline, and then you’re sunk," Magness said.

Texas state capital Austin's Mayor Steve Adler asked ERCOT to explain the blackouts on Tuesday when he wrote on Twitter "Rolling outages are not that. There must be systemic changes. This is happening every ten years and there’s got to be a better plan."

"So many cold and without power, people in danger and everybody frustrated including me," he added.

Extreme winter conditions have already taken at least 35 lives in Texas and other states across the Midwest.

While a Texas man was found frozen to death in his reclining chair with his wife nearly died at his side on Wednesday.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced Thursday around 1.6 million homes have had power restored across the state, while current power generation has been bringing back power for additional 200,000 homes every hour.

"As of this afternoon, there are no residential power outages due to lack of power generation. If any residence doesn’t have the power it is due to downed power lines or the need for the power company to manually reconnect," he said on Thursday.

Although modern wind turbines and power plants are equipped with deicing systems and operate under winter conditions, power suppliers in Texas are criticized for not taking extra precautions for colder weather since the southern state usually has mild winters.

Decentralization and deregulation are other problems in the state that has numerous independent utilities, which are all competing for their share in the electricity market as they lower prices to attract more customers, but that leaves them with less revenue for maintenance.

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