Texas Deep Freeze Lingers While Electrical Grid Holds Steady

Source: By Naureen S Malik, Bloomberg • Posted: Sunday, February 6, 2022

Temperatures across state are about 20 degrees below average Electrical grid saw less power demand than predicted

Snow lies on the ground near power lines at White Rock Lake after a winter storm in Dallas, Texas on Feb. 3. 
Snow lies on the ground near power lines at White Rock Lake after a winter storm in Dallas, Texas on Feb. 3.  Photographer: Emil Lippe/Getty Images

A bitter cold blast is gripping Texas in the wake of a winter storm, but the state’s power grid is managing to keep up with demand as residents cranked up heaters.

Saturday early morning temperatures in Dallas were at 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-7 degrees Celsius), while Midland, in the oil- and natural gas-rich Permian Basin, was at 10 degrees, with highs later in the day only expected to reach the 30s.

“That’s a solid 20 degrees below average,” said Marc Chenard, a meteorologist at the U.S. Weather Prediction Center. While the snow has moved out of Texas, some roads remain dangerous. “If you have to head out be alert for icy roads and be sure to wear layers as the wind chills are pretty low.”

The cold isn’t as extreme as last year’s deep freeze that triggered sprawling blackouts and left more than 200 people dead. Still, the deep chill caused power demand to surge across the state — albeit less than officials initially expected — and test the grid’s resiliency. Critics warned for months that grid managers and utilities haven’t done enough to winterize the system, while Governor Greg Abbott and power officials have tried to reassure Texans that the state is ready.

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Traffic moves through snow and ice on U.S. Route 183 in Irving, Texas on Feb. 3. Photographer: John Moore/Getty Images

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which runs the grid, has seen power demand reach 69.1 gigawatts on Friday morning, well short of its Thursday prediction of reaching an all-time high of about 75.6 gigawatts. A gigawatt is typically enough to power about 200,000 Texas homes.

Power outages struck only a few pockets of the sprawling state by early Friday, with more than 22,600 homes and businesses in the dark as of 9:16 a.m. local time, according to PowerOutage.us, which tracks utility data.

“These are localized outages that are not related to system-wide reliability issues,” Peter Lake, chairman of the Public Utility Commission of Texas, said at a Thursday media briefing. “The grid remains strong, reliable, and it is performing well in this winter-weather event.”

Electricity demand has boomed as a cold weather hits Texas

Natural gas has continued to flow through the pipelines that feed many of the state’s power plants, with limited disruptions. And wind turbines, whose poor performance during last year’s deep freeze has become the focus of Abbott’s scorn, supplied far more power than expected, keeping electric heaters humming.

The widespread U.S. storm has shifted to the Northeast, bringing heavy snow and treacherous ice accumulations across the region. New York City and Boston are under a winter weather advisory, with freezing rain expected. About 3,000 U.S. flights were canceled on Friday, with Dallas-Fort Worth International, New York’s LaGuardia and Newark Liberty International in New Jersey all had grounded about a third of operations for the day. The Texas airport, along with nearby Dallas Love Field, still were recovering from ice and snow that shut down flying for at least part of Thursday.