AUSTIN (Nexstar) — On Wednesday, Texas’ power grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, along with the Public Utility Commission, which oversees ERCOT, stated it does not expect to ask Texans to conserve power this week, citing plenty of power standing by on reserve.
Still, state leaders are urging Texans to be prepared, especially for local power outages, not greater grid issues.
“It could be ice on trees that causes a tree to fall in on power lines,” Gov. Greg Abbott said during a briefing Tuesday ahead of the storm.
Leaders said our grid is better equipped compared to last year.
“We are ready for this storm. We’ll be prepared for this,” ERCOT’s interim CEO Brad Jones said Tuesday.
Ahead of the storm, Jones said the state has 15,000 megawatts of power on reserve to tap into if needed. That’s enough to power around 11 million homes.
“We have about 71,000 megawatts of expected load. But at the same time, we have 86,000 megawatts of available generation,” Jones explained. That peak of 71,000 MW is expected Friday morning at 8 a.m.
During last year’s freeze, the grid didn’t have that option.
“At this point, we really have no additional generation that we can add to the system to address the issues. So therefore it comes from conservation in demand management. And that’s where we need your help… We ask that everyone start conserving energy,” then-PUC chair DeAnn Walker said on Feb. 13, 2021.
The weather then was also more extreme.
“A disaster declaration has already been declared for all 254 counties in Texas,” Abbott said last year at that same briefing.
Besides requiring physical improvements to our grid, like requiring power generators to weatherize by December 2021, the state also passed legislation that would improve interagency communication.
Natural gas producers were not required to weatherize to the same extent power generators have. But, the Texas Oil and Gas Association said there were other contributing factors to gas pipes freezing last year that led to fuel shortages for power plants.
“They failed because of roads that weren’t accessible, third party vendors couldn’t access what they needed to,” TXOGA’s Brad Staples explained.
Now, suppliers will be able to alert Texas Division of Emergency Management of any road issues, which will then coordinate with Texas Department of Transportation to get those roads cleared.
“Communication issues were some of the biggest challenges,” Staples said.
He also added some suppliers are bringing extra personnel on site ahead of this storm, just to be safe.
“They have crews that they’re renting hotel rooms for to put them out to be closer to their assets to keep them moving. Their crews have additional supplies on their trucks. They’re having additional personnel coming in before their shift begins in order to respond. Even so, we expect some fluctuation in production. But the storage that we have in Texas is the key,” Staples said.
While confident the grid will hold, the governor again is still reminding Texans to be prepared.
“No one can guarantee that there won’t be a quote, ‘load shed event.’ But what we will work and strive to achieve and what we’re prepared to achieve is that the power is gonna stay on across the entire state,” Abbott said.
Energy experts called that statement from Abbott a walk-back from a statement he made in November, when he guaranteed Texans’ lights would stay on this winter. Nexstar explains here why it’s more complicated than that.