Deadly Texas winter storm power outages were due to freezing or lack of winterizing, report finds

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission offered 28 recommendations, most which should occur within next 2 to 3 years

ByCourtney Carpenter KTRK logo
Saturday, September 25, 2021
Experts determine what's to blame for TX winter storm power outages
Eight months after the Texas winter freeze that killed hundreds and left millions in the dark, we're learning more about what led to power outages.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- More than eight months since the winter freeze that killed hundreds of Texans and left millions in the dark, we're getting a better look at what led to the deadly disaster.

On Thursday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission met and presented its preliminary findings and recommendations following the freeze from February.

According to the report, the biggest cause of outages was due to freezing or lack of winterizing generators for cold weather conditions. The report found the freezing accounted for 44% of the issues, followed by natural gas fuel shortage issues, which accounted for 31% of the unplanned outages.

The findings show that most natural gas production and processing facilities at Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) "were not identified as critical load or otherwise protected from load shedding" and ultimately led to a decline in natural gas production and supply.

The federal agency offered 28 recommendations, most of which should occur within the next two to three years.

The recommendations include winterizing equipment and conducting annual training on winterization plans. Generator owners who experience outages or failures due to freezing should review what occurred and implement corrective action plans.

A similar report with recommendations was released after the blackouts in 2011. Most power providers did not act on them. A decade later, experts say the recommendations need to be taken seriously.

"We need to listen this time. This report that they issued this week looked so much like the report they issued in 2011 when we had what's known as the 'Super Bowl freeze.' FERC and NERC issued a report and they found the exact same shortcomings. That we didn't listen last time. We didn't winterize our natural gas systems. We didn't winterize our power plants. I am hopeful the legislature and the Texas regulators are doing more this time than last, but I still don't think they're doing enough," explained Daniel Cohan, an associate professor of environmental engineering at Rice University.

The Texas power grid is a large and complex system, so how does it eventually get fixed?

"You are starting to see this with the FERC/NERC report. They are starting to address the fact that we are going to have to make it economically advantageous for the electricity producers and the energy producers across the state of Texas to make money when they are up," explained Ramanan Krishnamoorti, Chief Energy Officer at the University of Houston.

ABC13 reached out to ERCOT about FERC's preliminary findings and they responded with the following statement:

"Changes are obviously needed to protect Texans from future winter weather events like Uri, and ERCOT is working closely with the PUC to aggressively implement the Legislature's mandates. We fully expect the report's findings to complement the positive impact of the PUC's market redesign work sessions and our 60-point Roadmap to Improving Grid Reliability."

For more details on the report's findings, visit the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's website.


How the 2021 winter storm happened

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Texas winter storm shows need for plumbers and there's a way to get in on the industry

How to spot long-term damage in your home after freeze

ERCOT reveals plan to improve power grid reliability