As Texans slowly embark on another winter season, many are pensively approaching the cold weather, reflecting on the aftermath of Winter Storm Uri. The unexpected winter storm corrupted the state's power grid and left hundreds dead, and millions without electricity and water for days on end.
While the cold snap caused a reevaluation of the state's power grid, many are bracing themselves as we enter another wintertide, which is projected to be slightly colder than last year, per AP. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), says that outages can potentially occur if Texas experiences weather severe enough that overwhelms power plants while the demand for electricity simultaneously gets higher.
To combat this, in June, Governor Gregg Abbott signed Senate Bills 2 and 3, which requires the weatherization of power generation facilities, natural gas facilities, and transmission facilities to handle extreme weather and prevent another failure of the Texas power grid. In addition, back in October, regulators put into place a rule that would require power plants to use their "best efforts" to ensure that power stations can operate throughout the season and also required them to fix any small problems from the winter storm.
In an interview with Fox 7 over Thanksgiving, Gov. Abbott reassured viewers that the lights would stay on this winter, citing the bills he signed into law to help reform ERCOT. "During the winter storm, too many Texans were left without heat or power for days on end, and I immediately made reforming ERCOT and weatherizing the power system emergency items," Abbott said. "These laws will improve the reliability of the electric grid and help ensure these problems never happen again."
Ahead of winter, ERCOT considered five extreme scenarios in a risk assessment of the state’s power supply. ERCOT found that this upcoming season, the weather won't have to be nearly as severe as February's winter gale to knock out the power grid. According to a report from the Texas Tribune, the worst-case scenario for winter is high power utilization, outages of natural gas and fossil fuels, and low renewable power production, which still wouldn't equate to the damages experienced by Texans in February. ERCOT notes that the extreme scenarios have a very low probability of occurring, and the grid operator concludes more power generation will be available than last winter.
While all seems hopeful for Texans this winter, there’s still cause for concern for consumers. The nation has experienced shortages across supply chains due to the pandemic, and gas and electricity have been no exception. Albeit typical for gas and electricity rates to go up during winter months, prices have seemingly been rising all year long, and AP reports that winter this year is forecasted to be slightly colder across the country than last year. With colder weather comes burning more fuel to keep warm, and the U.S. Energy Information Administration projects that Americans can expect to spend nearly 30 percent more this season.
For more information on ERCOT, visit https://www.ercot.com