Thursday, 25 February 2021

Texas operator admits that the state's power grid was minutes from collapse during Winter Storm Uri that brought subfreezing temperatures and cut power to up to 4.3 million Texans

 Texas' power grid was minutes from collapse during Winter Storm Uri last week, officials of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) admitted on Wednesday.

Bill Magness, ERCOT's chief executive told the Wall Street Journal that the grid operator came close to losing control of the system through the night on February 15. 

Magness explained that the storm caused the grid's operating frequency to fall to dangerous levels, which prompted ERCOT to try and stabilize it by ordering the state’s electricity providers to cut 5 gigawatts of power to customers.


He said that just before 2am, the frequency of the grid fell significantly below the normal level of 60 hertz and stayed below 60 hertz for more than 4 minutes until the company ordered more blackouts, according to the Journal. 

Bill Magness (pictured), ERCOT's chief executive said Wednesday that the grid operator came dangerously close to losing control of the system through the night on February 15

Bill Magness (pictured), ERCOT's chief executive said Wednesday that the grid operator came dangerously close to losing control of the system through the night on February 15

He said that just before 2am, the frequency of the grid fell significantly below the normal level of 60 hertz and stayed below 60 hertz for more than 4 minutes until the company ordered more blackouts. An electrical substation is seen in Houston, Texas, on February 21

He said that just before 2am, the frequency of the grid fell significantly below the normal level of 60 hertz and stayed below 60 hertz for more than 4 minutes until the company ordered more blackouts. An electrical substation is seen in Houston, Texas, on February 21 

Abbott promises to overhaul state's electric grid after storms
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Magness said had the frequency stayed below 60 hertz for nine minutes or more, power generators and other equipment could've suffered damage and resulted in uncontrolled outages that could have caused the entire grid to fail.  

'That is the thing we cannot allow to happen,' Magness told the Journal. 'If we have a blackout of the system, the system is out for an indeterminate amount of time and it’s extraordinarily difficult to bring it back.'

Magness shed some light on what happened last week during a meeting with ERCOT directors on Wednesday. 

The meeting marked their first since winter storms brought subfreezing temperatures for days, cutting power to up to 4.3 million people and causing millions of dollars of damages.


Six ERCOT directors have resigned and a board nominee declined a seat amid sharp criticism of their performance.

Sally Talberg, chairman of the board and one of the six to submit a resignation, said ERCOT 'worked tirelessly' to keep the grid from collapse. 

She led Magness through a sometimes hour-by-hour review of the loss of power available to the grid and communications with consumers and officials.

Texas has no mandatory weatherization standards for the power plants that supply the grid, Magness said, pointing to a likely direction for lawmakers as they begin hearings on the weather disaster on Thursday.

The meeting marked ERCOT's first since winter storms brought subfreezing temperatures for days, cutting power to up to 4.3 million people and causing millions of dollars of damages. A family is seen boiling water and lighting candles in Texas on February 15

The meeting marked ERCOT's first since winter storms brought subfreezing temperatures for days, cutting power to up to 4.3 million people and causing millions of dollars of damages. A family is seen boiling water and lighting candles in Texas on February 15 

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About 48 per cent of the power generation available in the state was forced offline at the peak of the outages due to cold weather, lack of fuel or mechanical failures, Magness said.

ERCOT had ample reserves available through Sunday, when generators began to drop off the grid.

Utilities cut power to homes and businesses to prevent serious damage to generators and transmission lines, he said. 

Plans to rotate outages among consumers could not happen because of the sizeable loss of generation, he said.

Randal Miller, who represented independent retail power providers, resigned late Tuesday, leaving the board with seven vacancies. 

Talberg, ERCOT's vice chairman, Peter Cramton, and three other directors, all of whom live outside of Texas, also submitted resignations. 

Directors have been widely criticized for their handling of the outage and for not living in the state.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott welcomed the resignations, noting ERCOT has assured it had adequate power ahead of the storm. 

The Republican governor has put much of the blame for the outages on ERCOT and called for investigations. 

'The lack of preparedness and transparency at ERCOT is unacceptable, and I welcome these resignations,' Abbott said in a statement.

'The State of Texas will continue to investigate ERCOT and uncover the full picture of what went wrong, and we will ensure that the disastrous events of last week are never repeated,' the governor added. 

The resignations are effective as of Wednesday, a day before Texas lawmakers are set to begin hearings over the outages in the state Capitol. 

Historic snowfall and single-digit temperatures in Texas last week left millions without power and water for days. 

The storm was part of any icy blast across the Deep South that is blamed for at least 80 deaths.

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