Epic power fail: Why millions of Texans are still without heat and electricity
By Marcy de Luna, Amanda Drane & Staff writers February 17, 2021
Three days after the Texas power system collapsed, the state’s grid manager has restored little additional power and could provide no estimate on how long millions will remain without electricity and heat.
Unprepared for the persistent, unseasonable cold, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, is now at the mercy of power generators — still in the throes of a deep freeze and with repairs needed to damaged equipment — unsure when they will be able to thaw their equipment out.
Bringing back power generation has been slowed by repairs to frozen pipes, broken lines another equipment needed to run the plants, experts said. Natural gas shortages have also affected power generation. Freezing temperatures in Texas shale plays have contributed to a plunge in production of as much as 7 billion cubic feet per day, according to Bloomberg and S&P Global Platts.
Power plants weren’t ready for the blow when it hit just after midnight Monday. About 46,000 megawatts of generation came offline, ERCOT said, more than half of the grid’s 82,000 megawatts of normal capacity.
The state began the week with about 14,000 megawatts of power generation already offline for routine maintenance, said Joshua Rhodes, an energy researcher at the University of Texas at Austin. The Arctic blast that hit overnight Monday knocked another 32,000 megawatts out of commission.
ERCOT operates outside of federal regulation because its reach does not extend beyond state lines, and both Gov. Greg Abbott and former Gov. Rick Perry have been outspoken about keeping federal regulators out of the system.