Texas officials said Friday that they believe that the state has passed the peak power demand in this week’s winter storm, and that the grid has held up without major outages.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the state’s power grid operator, forecast that electricity demand Friday morning would reach roughly 74,000 megawatts. However, it topped out at only about 69,000 megawatts.
“We do not expect demand to exceed that amount for the rest of the storm,” Gov. Greg Abbott said. “At the height of power generation supply, more than 86,000 megawatts of power was available. … That's important because that far exceeds the estimated demand during last year’s winter storm.”
Most of the state remains in low temperatures, with North Texas remaining at or below freezing temperatures as of Friday afternoon. Abbott said the entire state is expected to be at or below freezing temperatures Friday night and most of the state will see subfreezing temperatures for the next few nights.
Experts estimate that last year during Winter Storm Uri, peak electricity demand would have been around 77,000 megawatts. Abbott said due to improvements made following last year’s widespread outages, the grid would have been equipped to meet that level of demand.
Many Texans braced themselves for the cold snap across the state, nervous after last year’s weeklong and widespread blackouts. But so far, the situation has been a fairly typical Texas cold front. Demand on Texas’ electrical grid was far lower than ERCOT, the state’s grid operator, had predicted.
Abbott said the grid’s performance this week should give residents confidence.
“The Texas electric grid is more reliable and more resilient than it has ever been,” he said.
While officials say the worst of the storm may be behind the state, they still warned of dangerous driving conditions and cautioned Texans to stay off roads when possible.
There were around 20,000 Texans without electricity as of Friday morning, Abbott said. He said this was due to local incidents, such as downed lines, not strain on the electrical grid. Officials stressed that anyone who loses power should call their local power provider.
Abbott credited the surplus of energy to changes that legislators made following last year’s winter storm.
After last February's blackouts, Texas lawmakers passed legislation aimed at preventing electricity blackouts, but it will likely take years before those changes are fully implemented.
Two major bills included key changes to the state’s power grid that energy experts said will begin to address some issues, such as requiring power companies to upgrade their plants to withstand more extreme weather and creating a statewide emergency alert system.
The legislation said power regulators needed to ensure all power plants were weatherized, a rule the Public Utility Commission adopted this fall. Meanwhile, lawmakers approved legislation that said oil and gas companies did not need to be weatherized until 2023. — Reese Oxner