Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) on Tuesday called for an investigation into the management of the state’s power grid and demanded that lawmakers take action to prevent a repeat of what is happening now. Millions of Texans are without power as a polar vortex envelops the entire state.
“The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) has been anything but reliable over the past 48 hours,” says Abbott. “Far too many Texans are without power and heat for their homes as our state faces freezing temperatures and severe winter weather. This is unacceptable.”
The blackouts started late Sunday night as the state reported a record energy demand alongside the failure of key power plants. Up to 185 generating units were knocked offline due to the weather, confirms Dan Woodfin, senior director of ERCOT’s system operations.
In addition to the blackouts and freezing temperatures, Texans are also facing boil-water notices, pipe breakages, and price increases. For those with power, the average cost of electricity has jumped more than 100%.
The state’s power grid is “facing conditions that it was not designed for,” says Emily Grubert, a professor at Georgia Tech. “Demand really spiked both in the electricity and the natural gas systems at the same time as a lot of the generators were not able to operate because of those cold conditions, and not being prepared for it is really what’s going on.”
As of Wednesday, an estimated 2.7 million households remained without power – many for the third consecutive day.
At least 24 people have perished from weather-related incidents including carbon monoxide poisoning.
“We know millions of people are suffering,” said ERCOT CEO Bill Magness. “We have no other priority than getting them electricity. No other priority.”
When power is restored, residents will be urged to limit electricity use as much as possible and to set thermostats no higher than 68°F. “Too much load on restored circuits at once can cause another outage,” warns ERCOT.