Millions of Texans remained without power on Wednesday morning although temperatures climbed above freezing across half of the state, a possible sign the state’s power grid could make significant progress restoring service. Pockets of Texas entered their third straight day of widespread power outages amid an extended winter storm, as electric utilities and the power grid scrambled to restore service.
The grid operators and power companies pleaded for patience as they tried to restore normal service. “We know this is hard. We continue to work as quickly and safely as possible to restore power,” the Texas grid operator tweeted Wednesday morning. “We hope to reduce outages over the course of the day.”
The emergency situation began in the early morning hours of Monday when several power plants tripped offline in rapid succession. The deep freeze continued into Wednesday in the northern part of the state, making it difficult for officials to restore power across the state.
What is happening in Texas?
An unusual Arctic blast spread across Texas on Monday and Tuesday from the tip of the Panhandle all the way to the Rio Grande Valley. Residents of large swaths of the state experienced two straight days of single-digit temperatures.
The widespread cold weather led to record-breaking demand for electricity. On Sunday night into Monday morning, frigid conditions hobbled dozens of power plants. This led the state’s grid operator to declare its most serious state of emergency at about 1:30 a.m. Monday.
The grid operator has faced twin problems: frozen power plants and not enough natural gas to run all needed power plants. On Wednesday morning,
CenterPoint Energy Inc.,
which serves the Houston area, said 1.4 million customers were without power. In northern Texas, residential natural-gas provider
Atmos Energy Corp.
issued an urgent alert asking residents to reduce their usage. “Conserve everything,” tweeted Dallas Mayor
Why have authorities shut off power?
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the power grid in the state, was forced to order blackouts beginning Monday and throughout Tuesday to prevent damage to the electricity system. Better to partially shut down the grid with rolling blackouts than for the grid to cease functioning altogether, it said.
In the early hours of Monday morning, demand for electricity surged higher than available supply. The grid operator, known as Ercot, was forced to shed demand by shutting off certain circuits to maintain balance in the overall system.
The cold weather has made it difficult to restart enough power plants to meet extraordinarily high electricity demand.
Why does Texas operate its own power grid?
Texas operates its own power grid, making it the only one that isn’t under federal jurisdiction. Texas likes it that way and has taken sometimes dramatic steps to ensure its grid is overseen in Austin, not Washington.
How long are the blackouts in Texas?
Ercot officials said it was having difficult restoring electricity on Tuesday, as some power plants were restarted while others were forced to shut down again. A small direct-current bridge to a neighboring power grid was closed Tuesday evening when that grid entered emergency operations and didn’t have any excess electricity to spare.
Ercot tweeted on Wednesday morning “some generation is slowly returning.” But it hasn’t said when it expects operations to be normal again.
How many people have been affected?
On Wednesday morning, grid officials said it had restored power to 600,000 households overnight but that 2.7 million homes still were without power.
At the peak, about 45 gigawatts of power were offline due to the cold. Two-thirds of this…
Read More: Why Is Texas Experiencing Power Outages?