Never Again: 4 Steps Texas Needs To Take To Prevent Another Power Crisis

It was a failure. Millions of Texans were left without power at a time when they needed it the most. While the winter storms like those that hit Texas last week are rare, it’s not out of the question that it could happen again.

Video Transcript

BRIAN NEW: A winter storm like this is rare for Texas, but it's not out of the question that it could happen again, and soon.

LE XIE: What we are experiencing now is definitely a wake up call.

BRIAN NEW: We reached out to some of the top energy experts from the Texas A&M College of Engineering to see what can be done. Not pie-in-the-sky ideas, but real actionable items. They had four recommendations.

The first is to winterize infrastructure, including outside power plants, natural gas pipelines, and wind turbines.

MARK BARTEAU: There are stories being put out there that wind turbines can't handle cold weather. Well, the ones we have in Texas can't. Tell that to the Danes who are getting most of their power from wind turbines under the harsh conditions of the North Sea.

BRIAN NEW: Their second recommendation is to invest in high-voltage lines to connect ERCOT to both the Western and Eastern interconnections. This way ERCOT can import energy faster in emergency situations.

Their next recommendation is to increase energy storage. Think gigantic batteries, like these Tesla batteries in California that have enough juice to power 15,000 homes for four hours.

MARK BARTEAU: The lesson here is we need to pay more attention and invest more in those in the future.

BRIAN NEW: Finally, these experts recommend to increase "demand response" technologies. Right now, your house either has power or not. But with the use of smart meters and smart appliances, an energy provider could allow power for essentials, like heating and lights, but cut it off for the washing machine or dishwasher.

LE XIE: So that we don't have to go for rotating blackouts. We can be selective and keep some of the essential services on.

BRIAN NEW: All these recommendations require money, millions of dollars. But experts say the investments are needed to ensure the power stays on in the extreme cold and in the other extreme that could be just months away.

EFSTRATIOS PISTIKOPOULOS: So the technology's there. We have all the systems in place to make this work, so that we all can be always warm or always cool, regardless what.

BRIAN NEW: 10 years ago, after the 2011 winter storm, federal regulators told Texas that its power plants could not be counted on in the bitterly cold conditions. ERCOT says it made changes after that report, but experts say those changes did not go far enough. They say Texas cannot afford to make that mistake again.

With the I-Team, Brian New, CBS11 News.