Days Before Blackouts, One Texas Power Giant Sounded the Alarm

Naureen S. Malik and Rachel Adams-Heard
·2 min read

(Bloomberg) -- Vistra Corp., one of the largest power generators in Texas, said it warned state agencies days before cascading blackouts plunged millions into darkness that internal forecasts showed electricity demand was expected to exceed supply.

Despite the warning, “the coordination and planning by authorities across the broader energy sector were seemingly disproportionate to the severity of the situation,” Vistra said in an emailed statement late Sunday. The company didn’t identify which state entities it contacted. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas is the state’s grid operator, while the Texas Public Utility Commission regulates power generators.

Ercot said in a statement its “operating notices incentived all available generation to serve customers” and didn’t immediately comment on the Vistra letter. Andrew Barlow, an official with the PUC, said he wasn’t privy to any correspondence between the agency and Vistra and referred the matter to Ercot.

“Days ahead of this event, Vistra and others forecasted insufficient generation would be available, and we began winter emergency preparations,” the statement said. “The warning signs were there, but the public was unaware of the gravity of the situation, which led to people being unable to respond and make the necessary adjustments for their families.”

Vistra shares rose 1.1% before the start of regular trading Monday in New York.

Read more: How Extreme Cold Turned Into a U.S. Energy Crisis: QuickTake

At its peak, more than 4 million Texans were without power over several days of unprecedented cold. Dozens have perished in the wake of what has now become known as the largest forced power outage in U.S. history. Even when electricity was restored as temperatures rose, millions remained without safe drinking water after power outages hit treatment plants and water pumps used to pressurize lines.

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