Texas power grid holds up in first freeze since 2021's historic collapse
Last summer's heatwave provided a solid dress rehearsal for the past week's freeze
Texas’s power grid appeared to hold firm during a recent winter storm roughly a year after a devastating freeze caused millions to lose power and cost hundreds of lives.
"The Texas electric grid is more reliable and more resilient than it’s ever been," Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Friday, adding that the power grid had 86,000 megawatts available when the peak demand of 69,000 megawatts was reached on Friday morning.
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In Texas, the return of subfreezing weather brought heightened anxiety and dire media headlines nearly a year after February 2021’s catastrophic freeze that buckled the state’s power grid for days and was linked to 246 deaths.
Millions of Texans lost power for nearly a week in freezing cold temperatures during that storm in a massive power outage that was exacerbated, in part, by frozen wind turbines. Pipes froze and burst, adding to the damage. Some Texans reported using their pickup trucks to power their frigid homes.
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This time around, Texas had about 70,000 outages by Thursday morning, nowhere close to the 4 million outages reported in 2021. About half had their power restored by evening.
Abbott and local officials said Thursday’s outages were due to high winds or icy and downed transmission lines, not grid failures.
Abbott, who was attacked politically over the energy issues during the previous storm and face challengers in next month's primary, took to Twitter last summer to explain why the grid was able to handle the extra pressure then and this time around.
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"Texas power grid was slated to hit a record high demand w/the heat on Tuesday," Abbott tweeted in August 2021. "It didn’t happen! Why? New strategies & tools used at ERCOT & PUC are increasing capacity & reducing demand. Result: ERCOT easily met demand as the chart below shows—with 8,000 Megawatts to spare." The state's energy board, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), underwent changes and developed new strategies to surge power to meet demand.
That summer heatwave provided a good dress rehearsal for the past week's freeze, in that both required higher than usual energy usage across the state. Power demand surged in both cases, but the surges did not blow the grid down.
Last year's winter storm was far more severe than this year's, with temperatures in 2021 falling below zero or at freezing for more than a week straight, according to Bloomberg. A major highway in Austin, deep in the heart of central Texas, turned into a snowboard hill for an afternoon during that 2021 freeze.
In this year's storm, fewer days dipped below 32 degrees, far fewer Texans lost power, and no one snowboarded anywhere near the Austin city limits.
Fox News' Bryan Preston and the Associated Press contributed to this report.