AUSTIN — Widespread rolling blackouts ceased Friday in Texas, but days ago the state was “seconds or minutes” away from the risk of its electric grid catastrophically failing as a record-breaking winter storm barreled across the state, according to the top manager of the grid.
Major generation units began failing in rapid succession as Sunday night rolled into Monday morning while demand skyrocketed, said Bill Magness, CEO of the Electric Reliability Council, in a news briefing Thursday.
The controlled outages that have ravaged the state were the only way to avert an even more dire blackout in Texas, Magness said.
“One of the reasons operators have to (shut down parts of the grid) is if they say, ‘You know, let’s wait another minute to see what happens.’ What happens the next minute might be three big units come off, and then you’re sunk.
“If we hadn’t taken action, it wouldn’t have been we would have waited a few days and see what happens. It was seconds and minutes, given the amount of generation that was coming off the system at the same time demand was still going up.”
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The shutdown left as many as 4 million Texans suffering without electricity for 48 hours or more in some cases, even as temperatures all across the state dipped into single digits and heavy snow and ice shut down highways, forcing the extended closure of grocery stores and other essential businesses.
By Friday, Texas’ grid operators said the electrical system had returned to normal for the first time since the storm. Smaller outages still remained, but Magness said the grid again has enough capacity to provide power throughout the entire grid.
Since the unprecedented Texas outages, which dominated national headlines and network newscasts, ERCOT has been the brunt of criticism from consumers, energy analysts and political leaders from both parties.
“We need answers, we need solutions, and we need accountability,” said state Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi said.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden announced Thursday federal help was on the way to Texas and other states battered by the winter storm.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott warned that residents “are not out of the woods,” with temperatures still well below freezing statewide, south central Texas threatened by a winter storm and disruptions in food supply chains.
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