Texas Power Grid Was ‘Seconds Or Minutes’ Away From Complete Failure, Leaving Whole State Dark, ERCOT Says
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Topline

The Texas power grid was just “seconds or minutes” away from a catastrophic and complete failure earlier this week, officials with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) said during a briefing Thursday, adding that widespread rolling blackouts may have saved the state from going completely dark.

Power lines are shown as they stood on Tuesday, February 16, 2021, in Houston.

David J. Phillip/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Key Facts

Ercot, which manages the state’s electrical grid, started instituting rolling blackouts Sunday night after a massive snowstorm and record cold temperatures froze major power supplies, mainly coal and natural gas generators.

The blackouts at times meant more than 35% of Texans went without electricity, the primary source of heat in the region, during the record-breaking cold.

But that apparently was just enough to stop a total blackout, which Ercot CEO Bill Magness said Tuesday would have left almost the entire state of Texas without power for “an indeterminate amount of time”—possibly a month.

What To Watch For

ERCOT announced Thursday it was ending the rolling blackouts, but may need to restart them “over the next couple of days to keep the grid stable.”

Big Number

447,086. That’s how many Texans remained without power early Thursday afternoon, according to PowerOutage.US. That’s a significant decrease from the more than 4 million without electricity at the height of the blackouts.

Key Background

Rare major winter storms and cold weather breaking century-old record lows have devastated Texas’ infrastructure and brought widespread suffering as many go without heat and access to running water amid reports of food shortages. State officials, like Republican Gov. Greg Abbott have faced massive criticism as a result, given that the state is responsible for maintaining its electric grid. Ercot is one of only three electrical grids in the lower 48 United States—the others being the Eastern Interconnection and the Western Interconnection, which combine to serve the rest of the country. Though much of the eastern U.S. was impacted by the same winter storms that pushed through Texas, power outages were far lower in other states.

Further Reading

ERCOT: Texas power grid was ‘seconds, minutes’ away from catastrophic blackout event (KXAN-TV)

ERCOT officials say they have no idea when Texas’ power outages will end (The Dallas Morning News)

Officials Don’t Know When Power Will Be Back In Texas (Forbes)

Texas Regains Some Power—But Food And Water Shortages Persist (Forbes)

Texas Gov. Abbott Faces Criticism As Millions Of Texans Go Without Power (Forbes)

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