Last February, a winter storm hit Texas that it hasn’t experienced in years, causing power outages across the state and denying many Texans the necessary heat to stay healthy and warm, and bursting pipes in innumerable houses.
It was an event that was largely blamed on Texas Governor Greg Abbott who is said to have known the grid wasn’t fully weatherized and did nothing to fix it. It’s an angle that Democrat candidate for Governor, Beto O’Rourke, is seizing on this issue and telling everyone that he’s running to secure the Texas power grid which the Texas government failed to do.
“I’m running for governor, and I want to tell you why,” O’Rourke said in a campaign video. “This past February, when the electricity grid failed and millions of our fellow Texans were without power, which meant that the lights wouldn’t turn out, the heat wouldn’t run, and pretty soon their pipes froze and the water stopped flowing, they were abandoned by those who were elected to serve and look out for them.”
Indeed, NBC News is attempting to drive the idea that Texas’s grid is exposed home with an article released on Monday saying that the power grid is still vulnerable:
The power and gas industries say they are working to make their systems more reliable during winter storms, and the Public Utility Commission, the state agency that regulates the power industry, finally acted on recommendations that federal regulators made a decade ago after another severe winter storm.
But energy experts say Texas’ grid remains vulnerable, largely because new regulations allowed too much wiggle room for companies to avoid weatherization improvements that can take months or years. More than nine months after February’s storm — which could exceed Hurricane Harvey as the costliest natural disaster in state history — a lack of data from regulators and industry groups makes it impossible to know how many power and gas facilities are properly weatherized.
For millions of Texans, that means there is no assurance that they will have electricity and heat if there is another major freeze.
But Abbott is singing a different tune.
According to Fox 7 in Austin, the Texas Governor is guaranteeing the lights will be on when winter hits.
“Listen very confident about the grid and I can tell you why. For one I signed almost a dozen laws that make the power grid more effective,” said Abbott.
“I can guarantee the lights will stay on,” he added.
Abbott said that various new strategies have been employed both through pipeline transmitters and ERCOT procedures.
“I have talked to some of the natural gas pipeline transmitters, and they’ve also have been doing winterization that most people don’t know about. Most importantly is the approach the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) has taken this year, unlike last year. Last year they were reactive, and waited until a crisis mode before they summoned more power, more energy, now the way ERCOT works, is they workdays in advance in summoning that power to make sure they will have enough power to keep the lights on,” said Abbott.
ERCOT is also confirmed that they are prepared for the forecasted Texas weather this year:
ERCOT will have a 43.3 percent planning reserve margin for this winter and anticipates there will be sufficient generating capacity available to serve forecasted peak demand for winter 2022, assuming typical winter grid conditions.
While this is comforting to know, the caveat at the end indicates that there still are vulnerabilities. However, ERCOT indicated that they do have more available generators compared to last year in the event of irregularity.
It may take years before the plants are fully weatherized, but it would appear that at least this year if Texas is hit with a winter like it was last year the state will be at least far more prepared than it was.