AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Gov. Greg Abbott and state energy and safety leaders say there’s enough power to get Texans through this week’s winter storm and they’re working to bring in resources to fix local outages.
“The power grid is performing very well at this time,” Abbott started a Thursday morning briefing while also noting peak usage isn’t expected until Friday at 8 a.m. State leaders anticipate there will be enough power to get Texans through this storm uninterrupted.
The governor said as of 11:30 a.m., about 70,000 Texans were experiencing outages. He attributed those outages to issues with local providers and ice affecting lines.
To help address those outages, the governor issued a proclamation for the 17 counties most severely impacted by this week’s winter storm, which authorizes the Department of Public Safety to waive some regulations and get power trucks to those areas faster.
The state of Texas is also bringing in roughly 2,000 lineman to help the local workforce make repairs to any downed lines.
Also early Thursday morning, ERCOT said there will be enough power supply to meet demand throughout the cold stretch.
The grid’s forecasted demand for Friday morning’s peak has fluctuated since the beginning of the week. On Tuesday, ERCOT was projecting 71,000 MW on Friday morning at 8 a.m. Thursday morning, that changed to nearly 75,000 MW, and as of ERCOT’s 2:30 p.m. update, that’s back down to 73,500 MW.
Nexstar’s Monica Madden asked PUC chairman Peter Lake to explain why there was a sudden change in projected peak demand.
“Just like any forecast and weather, they evolve and become more fine tuned and more accurate as we get closer to the operating day,” Lake responded. “We have a wide range of tools available to provide an additional margin of safety. But at this point, we see very comfortable amount of excess megawatts and excess capacity.”
During last year’s winter storm, peak demand was hit around 74,000 MW, however, we’ll never truly know what the demand was because the grid starting shutting off power to manage low supply and high demand.
Michael Webber, is an energy expert and professor at UT Austin, and said many have been critical of ERCOT’s ability to forecast demand accurately for a variety of reasons.
“Forecasting the demand for electricity, for heating depends first on your ability to forecast the weather — which we know already has a lot of uncertainty and error,” Webber said. “We don’t really know what the demand is. We all have to forecast the models and ERCOT is the only one that does forecasts and we don’t all agree, and this is an area for improvement, I would say.”
State leaders say they’re confident the grid will hold during this storm, citing weatherization upgrades for power generators, and 10,000 MW of surplus energy on standby. But this winter storm is also much less severe than February 2021’s storm. Webber said that’s why it will be difficult to measure the success of the grid after this storm.
“The risk we run is that we’ve lowered our expectations so much, that hundreds of thousands of people without power will be declared a victory,” he said. “That is still a problem and might be where we ended up. And also, this storm wasn’t a true test. It wasn’t as cold for as long across as wide of an area.”
There are no water boil notices in Texas right now, leaders said. They asked people to be diligent in following local providers and reporting any issues.
The news conference 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
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.