AUSTIN (KXAN) — Gov. Greg Abbott met with state energy leaders at 11 a.m. Tuesday to discuss plans to deal with a winter storm later in the week.
“We are ready for this storm. We will be prepared for this,” said Brad Jones, interim CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) at the press conference.
Abbott and other leaders discussed the changes they’ve made since the deadly February 2021 winter freeze, when the state suffered a major power crisis leaving millions of Texans in the dark and cold. One of the main issues was lack of winterization preparations by the state’s power generators and natural gas suppliers — a problem the governor said should now be fixed after changes in weatherization requirements.
“[Public Utility Commission] have been inspecting all of the power generators in the entire state of Texas and at least 99%, if not more, of the power generators in the state of Texas have passed inspection are fully operational,” Abbott said.
That number represents 99% of the 324 generators ERCOT has already inspected, which accounts for 85% of the state’s total power supply.
The storm, expected to hit the Austin area late Wednesday night into early Thursday morning, is forecasted to bring temperatures in the 20s for most of Thursday and the threat of ice accumulation — up to 1/4″ in some spots.
A Winter Storm Watch is in effect from 3 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, but it’s going to remain below freezing until the middle of the day Friday before a gradual warm up into the weekend.
While it won’t be a repeat of the week-long winter storm that crippled Texas last year, ERCOT is projecting the second-highest power demand of the year for Friday as people turn on their furnaces and warm up their homes. According to an email from ERCOT, statewide power demand is expected to peak Friday around 73 gigawatts. For comparison, the demand during last February’s storm topped out at 77 gigawatts.
Abbott reminded Texans there still may be power outages due to this freeze, but that can be attributed to other local issues rather than a greater problem with Texas’ power grid.
“At this moment, Texas has an excess of 15,000 megawatts of power available for people across the entire state,” he said.
The governor pointed to the example of roughly 5,000 Texans in the Houston-area without power as of Tuesday morning.
“It could be that power lines are down — power lines by the company that customers enter into contracts with,” Abbott said. “Those power lines could go down, because a tree falls on the power lines, and the power lines are no longer able to, at that particular time, to deliver power to a home. That’s what those transmission companies that deliver power to your house, it’s their job to make sure to get those power lines back up and running again.”
The news conference following Abbott’s briefing included representatives from just about every emergency agency Texas has to offer, plus others:
- Texas Divison of Emergency Management
- Public Utility Commission of Texas
- Railroad Commission of Texas
- Texas Commission on Envrionmental Quality
- Texas Department of Public Safety
- Texas Military Department
- Texas A&M Forest Service
- Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service
- Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
- Texas Department of Transportation
- Texas Department of State Health Services
- Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
TDEM Chief Nim Kidd added the increased communication between these agencies are what is helping the state better prepare now than it did last year.
“Look at the level of communication between these agencies that we really didn’t have a purview into before,” he said. “Several of them have broken to work groups that are meeting weekly now in order to really do what the legislation says — foster communication between the energy and the electric utilities in Texas.”
To monitor road conditions, go to this TXDOT website. To find a warming center near you, head to this page on TDEM’s website. And to check power outages, you can find contact information for your local transmission companies on the PUC’s website.
Abbott also spoke with energy leaders in Midland at 3 p.m.
The conference was held at the Alternate State Operations Center in Austin.