Millions of Texans, including many thousands in Galveston County, were without power as freezing temperatures sent demand too high, exposing weaknesses in the state’s electrical grid. Everyone should demand remedies to the weaknesses.
The power outages were more than inconvenient — they were dangerous, leaving nursing homes — at least one in Galveston — seeking help from the city, while officials, including Galveston City Manager Brian Maxwell, predicted extended outages would inflict “immeasurable” damage to properties as pipes froze across the island and county.
More than 2 million Texas homes and businesses were without power Monday morning as record-breaking cold from Winter Storm Uri, so named by The Weather Channel, extended an icy grip across the central United States.
The agency that oversees Texas’ electric grid said rotating outages, which began overnight, are likely to continue after the extreme winter weather forced power plants offline, according to reports.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas entered emergency conditions and initiated rotating outages at 1:25 a.m. today, the council reported Monday.
When the reserves get to 1,000 megawatts and they’re not expected to recover within 30 minutes, the council will ask electric suppliers to begin rotating outages to reduce load on the system.
Rotating outages likely will last at least throughout Monday morning and could continue until this weather emergency ends, said Bill Magness, president and CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.
“Every grid operator and every electric company is fighting to restore power right now,” he said.
That’s probably cold comfort for Texans wondering how they’ll make it through the extreme cold and how much damage to their homes will appear when things begin to thaw.
Some industry observers say the Texas electrical grid wasn’t prepared for the extreme weather.
“The extreme cold caught the highly decentralized Texan electricity market by surprise despite a heads-up a week ago about the impending frigid temperatures from the U.S. National Weather Service,” news service Bloomberg reported. Officials were expecting power demand to hit an all-time high, breaking a record set during a summer heat wave in 2019.
Given that Texas is prone to any kind of weather, the Electric Reliability Council should be making investments to be better prepared for extreme weather and extreme power usage.
Texans should demand that.
In the meantime, officials are asking Texans to conserve as much electricity as they safely can over the coming days as record-low temperatures are expected to plunge the state further into a dangerous winter storm.
One of the things Texans were promised when politicians in Austin deregulated the state’s electricity market was more investment in generating capacity and infrastructure. Did we get that? There’s evidence we didn’t. Ratepayers and elected leaders should be asking why that didn’t happened and demanding it happen now.
Here are some tips from the National Weather Service to stay warm if you lose power:
• Close any blinds/curtains or put blankets or towels up to cover windows and provide insulation.
• Close off rooms to avoid losing heat.
• Stuff towels in cracks under doors, especially exterior ones.
• Wear layers of loose-fitting, warm clothing, especially warm socks and gloves if you have them.
• Eat and drink food to provide energy to warm the body but avoid alcohol or caffeine.
• If you have candles, lighting them can help act as a heat source, especially in an enclosed space. But do not rely on them, and remember to practice good fire safety.
• Under no circumstances should you bring a generator inside. They should remain 30 feet away from your home.
• Don’t use a stove or oven for heat; this can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
• Laura Elder