AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The Texas power grid kept the lights on during the cold snap this week, but energy analysts said this was not a full test of improvements made to our grid over the last year.
The frigid temperatures Texas experienced last February were much colder and longer-lasting.
Still, leaders and city officials across the state braced for the cold. Abilene Office of Emergency Management coordinator Vincent Cantu said the city alerted its citizens days ahead of the cold front and alerted its local shelters to be ready.
“We have had talks to say, ‘Hey, in case XYZ does happen, that you guys are able to stand up, what’s y’all’s capacity. So, they’ve already been put on notice,” Cantu said.
The grid held up, but he said it’s always better to be prepared.
“The price of being prepared is it can be somewhat high if we never have to use these things. But the price of not having these things when something really happens is astronomical,” Cantu said.
Last February’s freeze was also not the worst Texas has experienced.
“This was not the most extreme winter, on record, it actually wasn’t all that close,” energy analyst Doug Lewin explained.
More change is also on the way for the grid to better prepare for more extreme weather. Phase two of weatherization efforts will require the Public Utility Commission, which oversees ERCOT – our grid operator, to work with climatologists to ramp up weatherization specifications for both winter and summer.
“They’re required to take into account projections for climate change, that is going to be critical for winter….we will have hotter summers and we will have droughts, and so that affects everything but particularly the state’s thermal plants which require water to operate,” Lewin explained.
Those changes will take time, though. As we get further away from the February freeze, emergency response teams hope Texans stay alert, and heed warnings from local officials.
“People can, can kind of start getting more complacent. It’s a lot about us pushing the message but a lot about folks remembering that self preparedness is also key,” Cantu added.
Besides physical upgrades to the grid, the state has also improved its communication when it comes to power emergencies.
Two members of ERCOT will now be present at the State Operations Center alongside the Texas Division of Emergency Management to improve interagency communication and response.