UPDATED 7:42 AM PT – Friday, February 19, 2021
While power has been restored to millions in Texas after days of massive blackouts, nearly half a million are still without access to electricity. On Thursday, the top official in charge of power and electricity in Texas said the state was minutes away from a catastrophic failure that could have left it in the dark for months.
Bill Magness, President of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), said if grid operators had not begun the rolling blackouts then the entire system could have failed.
“As we continue to manage the bitter cold storm we’re seeing, we are trying to get people’s power back on as quickly as possible,” he stated. “But in order to do that, we need to be able to safely manage the balance of supply and demand on the grid.”
His words come as energy operators and state leaders face criticism for the prolonged outages, which have left many residents in freezing temperatures with little access to food and water.
Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas) slammed ERCOT for their lack of transparency and said he will now urge state legislatures to “push through” legislation that will require all energy plants to “winterize” their facilities.
“Everyone knows how challenging the past few days have been for our fellow Texans,” stated the governor. “I want everyone to know that all of us and the state of Texas believe it is completely unacceptable that you had to endure one minute of the challenge that you faced.”
The deadly winter storm brought record low temperatures and heavy snow to the state with at least 34 deaths attributed to the weather.
🚨🌨️Winter Storm Safety Reminders
As winter weather continues and with many Texans still without power, please share these winter safety and energy conservation steps.
— Texas DSHS (@TexasDSHS) February 17, 2021
Energy experts said these blackouts occur in Texas about every 10 years and significant changes need to be made to the state’s infrastructure if they want to avoid future problems.
“Texas is basically an isolated grid, there’s something unique about the Texas grid that has had its pros and cons, ” noted Sergio Castellanos, a professor at the University of Texas. “We have seen it highlights and evidence some of the shortcomings that is the lack of interconnection with other states, which could mitigate the concentrated weather impacts on a given region such as Texas.”
Meanwhile, ERCOT claims to have made “significant progress” to restore power to Texans this week. The company warned that emergency conditions could remain amid damage to the system and some level of rotating outages will continue in the coming days to keep the grid stable.