Dec 21, 2022 - News

Texas power grid faces another test

Illustration of fractured ice in the shape of Texas

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Frigid temperatures forecast to strike Thursday are again prompting concerns about the stability of the state’s power grid, which could face its biggest test since new winterization standards took effect after the deadly 2021 freeze.

What’s happening: An arctic blast is set to sweep through the U.S. this week, arriving in Texas early Thursday.

  • At night, temperatures in Austin are expected to dip below freezing before plunging into the teens. Temps will start to warm by Christmas Day.
  • Meanwhile, lows in the Panhandle are expected to approach single digits in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

Why it matters: ERCOT — which operates the power grid covering most of Texas — and state leaders, including Gov. Greg Abbott, have expressed confidence in the grid's ability to withstand increased demand.

Flashback: Mass power outages during a winter storm in February 2021 led to hundreds of deaths and property damage totaling nearly $200 billion, according to an official after-action report.

What they're saying: Pablo Vegas, ERCOT’s new president and CEO, told the board of directors Tuesday morning the grid is prepared to handle the frigid temperatures.

  • The grid operator is forecasting demand for power to reach its peak of 70,000 megawatts Friday morning.
  • “With all the available resources performing as planned, we have forecasted to have nearly 90,000 megawatts of capacity online for this weekend's event,” Vegas added.

Of note: Temperatures will be warmer than in February 2021, there won't be as much wintry precipitation and the cold snap is not expected to last as long, according to ERCOT’s lead meteorologist Chris Coleman.

  • "I'm not too concerned about it from a grid point of view," Thomas Overbye, director of the Smart Grid Center at Texas A&M, tells Axios.
  • "A lot of electric work has been done on the grid since Uri to winterize it — and the temperatures are going to be higher and the load isn't going to be as high, so we won't have as many generator failures occurring."

The bottom line: Texans should still prepare for freezing temperatures by signing up for emergency alerts, keeping cellphones charged and protecting pipes.

Dig deeper: What Texas can do to fix its power grid


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