The Electric Reliability Council of Texas announced on Thursday it has stopped large rolling blackouts, though officials clarified rotating outages are still possible with the continuing high demand for energy.
As of Thursday afternoon, roughly 165,000 Oncor customers in Texas were still without power, including around 32,000 in Tarrant County and 23,000 in Dallas County, according to the company’s outage map. That represents a large decrease from Tuesday, when there were more than 415,000 residents across Tarrant and Dallas counties without power for hours at a time, some for more than a day. ERCOT officials credited the restored power on Thursday to increased generation across the electric grid, from the positive effects of the controlled blackouts and factors like increased solar generation.
Part of the reason why thousands of Texans still had no power on Thursday was due to damage to equipment from Wednesday’s winter storm and days of record low temperatures, Oncor said in a Twitter thread on Thursday.
ERCOT on Wednesday directed Oncor and other utilities to halt rolling blackouts and to begin restoring power to areas where there were controlled outages.
But in a virtual press conference on Thursday, ERCOT President Bill Magness clarified that, “We’re not out of the woods yet.”
“If we do hit a bump and have some generation have to come back off, we may have to ask for outages,” Magness said. “But if we do, we believe they’ll be at the level where they could be rotating outages, not the larger numbers that we faced earlier this week.”
Agencies like Oncor have received directives from ERCOT and been responsible for choosing which sections of cities or towns will lose power, ERCOT officials said during the press conference.
The officials acknowledged there’s still a lot of work to be done with the damaged equipment and a forecast indicating frigid temperatures expected to last at least until the weekend. Magness, however, stated confidently, “Customers should be seeing the light and the heat coming on, if they haven’t been seeing it.”
ERCOT declared Texas was at its highest energy emergency level on Monday, as people across the state were cranking up heat due to record low temperatures, pushing the grid beyond its limits. That’s when ERCOT announced rotating outages would begin, and many people across Dallas-Fort Worth reported they lost power and the temperatures inside their homes began to plummet.
Bryan Fort, a resident of the Ryan Place neighborhood in Fort Worth, lost power around 2 a.m. Monday in the home he shares with his wife and two young children. They stayed with a friend until Wednesday, when he told the Star-Telegram the power came back on.
Magness said the power issue began late Sunday night into Monday morning, when ERCOT noticed an increase in energy use coinciding with winter weather. ERCOT directed providers to initiate rolling blackouts, which ultimately prevented the electric grid from crashing or suffering worse damage than it did, Magness said.
Officials were hesitant to discuss how ERCOT has fared through all this, and what changes could be made in the future to protect the system. When asked how he would grade the agency during the crisis, Magness said it was too early to say, acknowledging there will be investigations and assessments moving forward.
“I will give a good grade to the operators who took those actions we just discussed to prevent a catastrophic blackout,” he said. “It’d say that’s the most difficult decision that had to be made throughout this whole event, to do that rapidly.”
ERCOT used the winter of 2011 as a basis for the worst-case scenario forecast, since that was the most extreme winter season in recent memory, officials said. The increased demand this time went beyond those limits.
Warren Lasher, a senior director at ERCOT, said in an email on Thursday, “Based on statistical analysis of available weather data, this event was determined to be a reasonable representation for a 90th percentile extreme weather event.”