No estimate for when millions of Texans will get power back, officials say

No estimate for when millions of Texans will get power back, officials say
AP Photo/LM Otero
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ERCOT, the Texas corporation which manages the flow and supply of electricity to tens of millions of Texans, said on Tuesday that it is unable to predict when power outages across the state might end. Texas has been hit with blackouts following a cold front that swept through the usually warm state in February. 

As of 6 p.m. on Tuesday, over three million Texans, most of whom are in the north part of the state, continue to endure extended blackouts due to the icy weather, Dallas News reports. 

ERCOT says that it is trying to avoid a total blackout by instructing utility companies to cut power to select customers.

“We needed to step in and make sure that we were not going to end up with Texas in a blackout, which could keep folks without power — not just some people without power but everyone in our region without power — for much, much longer than we believe this event is going to last, as long and as difficult as this event is right now,” ERCOT CEO Bill Magness said.

Magness was unable to provide reporters with an exact deadline for how much longer the outages would last. Officials say an uncontrolled blackout could leave much of the state without power for “an indeterminate amount of time,” possibly upwards of a month, according to Dallas News.

ERCOT and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told concerned Texans that power was being restored to thousands of customers, however, the power grid was unable to maintain its gains. 

“At the same time we’ve been adding supply to the grid from certain generators, we’ve also been losing other generators,” Senior Director of System Operations Dan Woodfin said. “So we haven’t been able to add as much back during the course of the day that we would like and what we have added back, we’re hoping to keep online. But if additional generation doesn’t become available as the day goes on, we may actually have to take some of it back offline to maintain that power and supply balance.”

Officials from power companies, including Oncor Electric Delivery, did not answer questions about how they choose which parts of the city to disable power to, or which ones they choose to provide with continuous service. Officials told reporters that they tried to trade power among neighbours but were unsuccessful due to the grid's weakened stability, said an Oncor spokesperson in a call with Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. 

“We recognize the hardships and extreme frustration customers without power face during these historical low temperatures and are ready to deliver power as soon as electric generators are able to provide it,” Oncor said Tuesday on Twitter. “As soon as enough generation is available, we will return to a regular cadence of rotating outages with the goal of providing any temporary relief that we can for those who have been without power the longest.”

Gov. Abbott has called on state legislatures to investigate ERCOT and its inability to handle the storm. 

“The Electric Reliability Council of Texas has been anything but reliable over the past 48 hours,” he said.

“Reviewing the preparations and decisions by ERCOT is an emergency item so we can get a full picture of what caused this problem and find long-term solutions,” Abbott said. “I thank my partners in the House and Senate for acting quickly on this challenge, and I will work with them to enhance Texas’ electric grid and ensure that our state never experiences power outages like this again.”

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