Texas Power Grid Was ‘Minutes’ From Months-Long Blackout: Energy Council

February 19, 2021 Updated: February 23, 2021

The Texas power grid was just moments away from a total blackout in the midst of a winter storm and record low temperatures, said the head of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).

“We were at a level of frequency where we needed to take action,” ERCOT CEO Bill Magness told reporters during an online briefing on Feb. 17.

“If we hadn’t taken action, it wouldn’t have been we would have waited a few days and see what happens. It was seconds and minutes, given the amount of generation that was coming off the system at the same time demand was still going up,” he added.

ERCOT operates the power grid that covers most of the state.

Elaborating further, if operators hadn’t acted, the state would have been suffering from blackouts “for months,” Magness said.

Magness received criticism from state officials, including Gov. Greg Abbott, who asked for his resignation after the rolling blackouts. He also said that Texas would not be better off joining the national power grid.

Texas water crisis
A water bucket is filled as others wait in near-freezing temperatures to use a hose from a public park spigot in Houston, Texas, on Feb. 18, 2021. (David J. Phillip/AP Photo)

“Our neighbors, who power could have come in from, were having similar problems to us. The power grids on the east and to the west and that are in Texas were having similar issues,” he added during an appearance on CNN.

According to PowerOutage.us on Friday, about 189,000 customers in Texas are still without power.

Ice that downed power lines during the week and other issues have utility workers scrambling to reconnect homes to power, while Texas’ powerful oil and gas sector has looked for ways to renew production.

Hospitals in some hard-hit areas ran out of water and transferred patients elsewhere, while millions of people were ordered to boil water to make it safe for drinking. Water-treatment plants were knocked offline this week, potentially allowing harmful bacteria to proliferate.

In Houston, a mass distribution of bottled water was planned at Delmar Stadium on Friday for residents needing drinkable water, the city’s Office of Emergency Management said.

Lina Hidalgo, the top elected official in Harris County, which encompasses Houston, said she was pleased with progress in the past 24 hours, but warned residents to brace for more hardship.

“The grid is still fragile,” she said, noting that cold weather would remain in the area for a few days, which would “put pressure on these power plants that have just come back on.”

Reuters contributed to this report.