If there’s any one single thing that can unite the state of Texas in this moment is its ire for its grid system. Millions were left powerless for days on end. Without heat, households pipelines froze, and bursted – with images of flooded households flooding the airwaves. A boil notice is still in effect in areas such as Arlington, Fort Worth, Houston, and Tyler as a result of the outages pushing water treatment plants offline. While power is slowly being restored, with temperatures creeping back above freezing, and businesses beginning to reopen, we come to find that Texas was “seconds and minutes away” from facing months-long power outages, according to ERCOT officials. [Featured image: @JOE RAEDLE / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP]
The near cataclysmic moment came early Monday, outages for the state’s natural gas, wind, and coal plant systems, fell offline, creating a significant loss of energy supply for the state – raising severe warning signs. In this moment, officials made the decision to cut the power and implement rolling blackouts to conserve its remaining energy in the face of escalating demand.
“It needed to be addressed immediately,” said Bill Magness, president of ERCOT told the Texas Tribune. “It was seconds and minutes [from possible failure] given the amount of generation that was coming off the system.”
Had the officials not altered the power distribution system, Magness said, then more power units would have tripped offline, and resulted in disastrous consequences, i.e. the outages “could have occurred for months.”
Seeing the dwindling energy supply in the face of high demand, ERCOT officials issued an Emergency Energy Alert Level 3:
“ERCOT has issued an EEA level 3 because electric demand is very high right now, and supplies can’t keep up,” the company wrote on its website. “Reserves have dropped below 1,000 MW and are not expected to recover within 30 minutes; as a result, ERCOT has ordered transmission companies to reduce demand on the system.”
The Tribune notes that the worse case scenario would have been for the energy demand to supersede the state’s supply, resulting in possible equipment blowouts and fallen power lines – damage so severe, in fact, that the repair process could have lasted months.
“As chaotic as it was, the whole grid could’ve been in blackout,” Bernadette Johnson, senior VP of power and renewables at Austin-based Enverus, told the Tribune.
“The operators who took those actions to prevent a catastrophic blackout and much worse damage to our system, that was, I would say, the most difficult decision that had to be made throughout this whole event,” Magness told the Tribune.
See also: Abbott Calls For ERCOT Investigation