Texas' power grid holds up during cold snap, but experts say there is still room for improvement

Shannon Ryan Image
Thursday, January 18, 2024
How is Texas' power grid holding up? Here's the latest
Is Texas on its own power grid? The state's privatized energy source held up during the freeze in January, but experts say there's room to improve.

Texas' power grid appears to have held up through this week's cold snap. Power outages were local, caused by things like ice on power lines.

Fewer power plants were offline than there had been during the storms of February 2021 and December 2022. Energy expert Doug Lewin said this indicates the plan to weatherize those plants that the Texas legislature ordered after the storms of 2021 may be working.

Still, experts like Lewin told ABC13 there is much room for improvement.

When 13 Investigates visited Feast Bennemie's Fifth Ward rental earlier this week, he said he was cold.

SEE ALSO: 13 Investigates: Couple 'miserable' as heat index reaches 109 inside their home

"There's no insulation in the wall," he explained.

Using a laser thermometer, 13 Investigates recorded the temperature of his living room floor. It was just 43 degrees.

"You can feel the cold coming up between your pants," he said.

Bennemie is not alone.

"Texas is kind of toward the bottom of the barrel when it comes to energy efficiency," Dr. Joshua Rhodes of the University of Texas explained.

In 2022, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, also known as ACEEE, ranked Texas 29th in the United States in terms of energy efficiency. Last year, Wallet Hub ranked it 40th.

"We don't have very strict building codes," Rhodes said.

Jennifer Amann, a senior fellow with ACEEE, explained that if codes were more strict, it would be less likely Texans would have to hold their breath as we did during this week's cold snap and worried the state's power grid would once again crash.

"There is so much that energy efficiency can do to help address the reliability issues in Texas and the grid issues that have been front of mind," Amann said.

According to the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, if the state upgraded to the most recent international energy conservation code, it would save $8.9 billion and 235 MW a year in just residences.

"You can do energy efficiency a lot faster to address your needs than you can build power plants," Amann said.

The federal government's Texas Weatherization Assistance Program also sets aside money for low-income Texans to prep their homes with caulk, patching holes, adding insulation, and weatherstrip.

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