Electric Companies Prepare for Winter Storm Following Last Year's Power Failure

Electric providers say freezing rain, ice pose biggest threat to power lines

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With forecasted freezing rain and bitter cold, local electric providers Oncor and Denton Municipal Electric said ice remains the biggest threat to power lines and service.

“This particular storm with electric utilities is probably your worst kind,” said Executive Manager of Denton Municipal Electric Christopher Lutrick.

Even just a thin sheet of ice on lines or nearby trees can lead to outages and repairs.

Denton Municipal Electric, which provides electricity to 60,000 people, is bringing its first wave of crews in before the freezing rain arrives and additional crews will arrive early Thursday morning to prepare any lines damaged by the arctic blast.

Oncor, which provides electricity to 3.8 million homes and businesses, said their crews are being pre-positioned and annual winterization preparations and improvements have already been completed.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbot held a briefing Tuesday on the state’s readiness for the winter storm, including addressing changes made since last year’s power failure left millions of Texans in the dark.

Abbott said while 99% if not more of the power generators statewide have passed inspection and are ready, he said potential outages could not be ruled out - either from demand on the grid or from ice accumulating on the power lines or nearby tree limbs.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the state’s power grid, said they’re ready.

“We’ve been working for the last year to make sure this grid is more reliable than it has ever been in the past and it is,” said interim ERCOT President and CEO Brad Jones. “We are ready for this storm. We’ll be prepared for this.”

ERCOT is forecasting near-record demand on the grid come Friday morning, rivaling usage demands seen during last February’s deadly freeze. So far, ERCOT has issued no calls for conservation.

Following the 2021 power crisis, state lawmakers ordered power companies to winterize but did not require the same for natural gas companies.

Natural gas production, which fuels electricity generators, remains a top concern for energy experts. It largely failed during last February’s freeze, leaving millions of Texans in the dark.

If ERCOT was to order electric companies to shed power from the grid, known as rolling blackouts, Denton Municipal Electric said they would be ready.

“We do have a load shed plan in place that we think we’ve improved upon significantly,” Lutrick said.

Lutrick said over the last year Denton made improvements to their circuits that should help spare critical services and equally distribute outages if forced to do so by ERCOT.

Lutrick said he does believe communication has improved from ERCOT to utility providers regarding any supply issues.

“Better to tell somebody there may be bad news than wait for the bad news to happen,” said Lutrick.

Adding his main goal is to better communicate any outages – no matter their cause – to his customers in Denton.

“Our goal is to do a better job communicating those outages, the duration of them and to the best of our ability when they will end,” Lutrick said.

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