Texas power grid

Arctic Blast Coming, How Concerned Should Texans Be About The Power Grid?

NBCUniversal, Inc.

By mid-week an arctic blast will replace the sunshine and mild weather, bringing flashbacks to last February’s deadly winter storm and failure of the state’s power grid.

“This is nowhere near a test of the power grid because this storm is so much milder compared to last year,” said energy consultant Alison Silverstein.

Silverstein called this week’s forecast a typical Texas winter event and is optimistic the power grid will hold and the lights will stay on.

Though she remains concerned about freezing conditions in the Permian Basin affecting natural gas production and delivery, which froze up during February 2021, contributing to millions of Texans being left in the dark.

“We know the big vulnerability of the Texas grid is to gas availability,” Silverstein said. “Since we have little proof that the gas system was winterized, if there is a vulnerability to Texas power plants and ERCOT operations it’s going to be because the gas system let us down.”

While the state forced power companies to winterize after last February’s deadly freeze, natural gas companies do not.

“Power plants are better positioned to perform in super cold weather, but we have no evidence that gas production or gas delivery systems will be there when we need them the most,” Silverstein said.

ERCOT is projecting near-record demand on the Texas power grid Friday morning, rivaling demand seen last February. So far there has been no call for conservation and ERCOT’s social media channels are silent on the impending arctic blast.

“You would think that ERCOT and others would be saying, ‘please get ready and prepare yourself’ rather than just staying quiet,” Silverstein said.

NBC 5 reached out to ERCOT with specific questions related to forecasted demand and preparations and received this statement in return, attributed to Interim CEO Brad Jones.

“The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is anticipating high demand for power Wednesday through Sunday due to a forecasted cold front. This cold front is expected to bring winter weather and precipitation to the ERCOT region. ERCOT is taking early preventative action ahead of the expected increase in demand to ensure the grid remains reliable.”

“ERCOT will deploy all the tools available to us to manage the grid effectively during this winter weather. We are coordinating closely with the Texas Division of Emergency Management, the Public Utility Commission, and elected officials — as well as electric generators and transmission and distribution utilities — to keep Texans informed throughout the week. We have ordered power plants across the region to postpone planned outages and to return from outages already in progress.”

Local emergency managers are warning about the storm, saying while you shouldn’t panic you should prepare just as you have in the past for rapidly changing Texas weather.

Eric Hutmacher with Denton County’s Emergency Management office said they are monitoring the forecast closely and are ready to respond to any warnings from ERCOT and power suppliers.

“You take that communication and do what emergency management does best and prepare,” Hutmacher said.

He said Denton County is preparing for dangerous road conditions later this week along with the bitter cold and potential power outages – no matter the cause.

He urges residents to think ahead, protect pipes, and have food, water, prescriptions, and extra batteries in case travel is discouraged or their home loses power.

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