Power outages continue as more winter weather looms

Caitlin Cosper
By Caitlin Cosper February 17th, 2021
For business

More winter weather is headed towards Texas.

(Last updated: February 17, 12:05 p.m.)

Approximately 2.8 million Texans remained without power Tuesday night (February 16) and into Wednesday morning (February 17) as more winter weather nears. ERCOT has struggled to restore electricity across the state and remained under a Level 3 Alert – which continued rolling power outages.

Without power, millions of Texas households experienced freezing temperatures. Dallas reached a low of 3 degrees at 5:53 a.m. yesterday, while Houston saw a low of 15 degrees yesterday at 6:53 a.m.

ERCOT officials stated Wednesday morning that they restored power to 600,000 households overnight. However, that still leaves 2.8 million homes in the dark.

Why are there so many outages?

Freezing temperatures and winter weather led to a spike in electricity demand, which soon surpassed the available supply. ERCOT began rotating power outages to combat the increased demand. The grid manager also urged customers with electricity to reduce consumption, despite many households only having power for a few minutes for each hour.

On Tuesday, February 16, CenterPoint Energy began spreading power outages around its customers. The goal was to restore power to some households who had been completely in the dark for nearly 48 hours, according to Jason Ryan, CenterPoint’s senior vice president for regulatory affairs.

The utility company initially planned for these blackouts to last about 15 minutes to an hour. However, Ryan cautioned that households who lose power suddenly should expect to go without electricity for 24 hours. Ryan pointed blame at decreased electricity generation from power plants in Texas.

Are wealthy neighborhoods exempt from outages?

As millions remain without power, many have voiced concerns that affluent neighborhoods are not included in the rotating power outages.

Social media posts circulated since Monday, February 15, claiming that Highland Park in Dallas has retained power throughout the storm. Highland Park’s households are 90 percent white and the median household income is more than $207,000 annually.

In a tweet on Tuesday night, Riley Stearns, writer and director, said, “Highland Park, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Texas, has had power this entire time. Meanwhile, my parents spent much of the day in their car staying warm and will be sleeping in sleeping bags tonight. I hope a million investigations are opened after all of this.”

There are conflicting reports on whether Highland Park has experienced power outages, with some individuals on social media claiming they have been without power, too. As of now, there is little confirmation over whether the rotating power outages are disproportionately affecting lower-income neighborhoods.

Criticism continues over ERCOT management

On Tuesday, February 16, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott urged Texas Legislature to begin an investigation into how ERCOT managed the grid during this winter weather.

“The Electric Reliability Council of Texas has been anything but reliable over the past 48 hours,” Abbott said. “Far too many Texans are without power and heat for their homes as our state faces freezing temperatures and severe winter weather. This is unacceptable. 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. 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.”

Texas winter weather forecast

Much of Texas remains under a winter storm warning as the state moved into Wednesday, February 17. Another winter storm nears the Lone Star State and some areas of North Texas could see four more inches of snow.

The Dallas-Fort Worth area may experience ice and a possibility of snow (around 0.10 inches is currently estimated). Regions of southern and southeastern North Texas have a lower possibility of snow, but there is concern over ice amounts.

Roads are currently very icy and will likely become even more dangerous as the new storm brings more winter weather. Residents are encouraged to stay off the roads and take safety precautions until the storm has passed.

 

Caitlin Cosper

Energy Expert

Caitlin is a writer within the energy and power industry. Born in Georgia, she attended the University of Georgia before earning her master’s in English at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.