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.

Do not:

• 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

 Laura Elder: 409-683-5248; laura.elder@galvnews.com

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(12) comments

George Laiacona

This is the result of electing a a movie star financially backed by Oil Companies. Back in the 80’s the Regan Administration chose to end the construction of the Nuclear Power Generation facilities.in order to keep the Oil Companies in charge of America’s electricity. Today we pay for that faulty plan. Nuclear electricity is not affected by the weather any time of the year.

lauraelder Staff
Laura Elder

I haven't researched this, but I plan to. I think Texas needs to build more power plants.

Susan Kingsley

Does the accident at 3 Mile Island ring a bell? Sentiment across parties shifted against Nuclear power.

Gary Miller

Green power is most of what has shut down. Wind and solar power plants were supposed to maintain backup power plants capable of replacing every thing lost if the Green power shuts down. Looks like enough back up was not provided. As snow covered private solar producers are covered in sleet or snow they produce little. Owners start pulling from the grid, adding to the short fall because no back up was required.

Craig Mason

Gary I actually agree with you frozen blades on wind turbines and snow covered solar panels are useless. God imagine if half of the population drove electric vehicles, how bad it would be.

Bailey Jones

NO Gary, most of what is shut down is gas, coal and nuclear. Power companies were not prepared for this. https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/15/rolling-blackouts-texas/

Raymond Lewis

I agree totally Laura. Although we did not lose power (so far) I would want a few additional questions answered; How was the conservation number of 1000 Megawatts determined? Given the weather service warned the country about these record low temperatures, why was ERCOT so unprepared? These low temperatures will last perhaps a week at best. The Texas summer heat last far longer. What is the quantifiable difference in power demand? Not sure what it is, but something is amiss here. Will be anxiously awaiting your research findings.

lauraelder Staff
Laura Elder

What’s even more concerning is CenterPoint is blaming ERCOT and ERCOT is blaming CenterPoint and we’re not getting answers. But this isn’t a rolling blackout. And I’m glad you didn’t lose power. I hope you don’t! We did at 2 am and my hands are so cold I can hardly type this.

Ted Gillis

Thank you Gary Miller as usual for your useless comment. We all know about solar and wind being a part of the mix. Those electrical providers are not supposed to be depended upon when the wind doesn’t blow nor when the sun doesn’t shine. These electrical providers are supposed to provide reliable electricity under all conditions. Several natural gas units are down too. This situation is unacceptable. There should be redundancy built in for the worst case scenarios. We all pay for this service. We deserve better.

Bailey Jones

Many power plants in Texas aren't simply designed to operate in sub-freezing temperatures, so they shut down. They could be winterized, but that cuts into profits, and extreme weather events like this never happen, so...

The bad news is that - just like extreme summertime weather events, we'll see more and more of these winter events. Our climate - like any system that's being fed too much energy - is becoming less stable.

No surprise that the peanut gallery would be suggesting more of the cause of the problem as the solution to the problem.

Diane Turski

Elections have consequences! We won't get anything better until we demand better through the ballot box!

George Laiacona

Wind and solar power has been working in any kind of weather in the Northern states and Canada for years. The problem with this type of electrical energy in Texas is that it reduces the amount of money the oil barons can expect to put in their pockets.

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