ERCOT issues winter weather advisory for Texas ahead of 'very substantial' cold front

ERCOT said it expects the highest power demand to be Friday. Officials expect to have an excess of 15,000 megawatts available.

Wednesday, February 2, 2022
Texas winter storm: Gov. Greg Abbott holds briefing as ERCOT issues winter weather advisory ahead of 'very substantial' cold front
Gov. Abbott said there may be outages, but attributed them to local power line issues, like downed lines, fallen trees and ice.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Texas officials have issued a winter weather advisory for the state ahead of a "very substantial" arctic cold front blowing in this week.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) said it is anticipating a high demand for power Wednesday through Sunday due to the forecasted cold front.

The front is expected to bring winter weather and precipitation, with possible icy conditions.

"ERCOT will deploy all the tools available to us to manage the grid effectively during this winter weather," officials said in a statement. "We are coordinating closely with the Texas Division of Emergency Management, the Public Utility Commission and elected officials - as well as electric generators and transmission and distribution utilities - to keep Texans informed throughout the week. We have ordered power plants across the region to postpone planned outages and to return from outages already in progress."

State leaders, including Gov. Greg Abbott, answered questions about the Texas power grid in a briefing Tuesday.

Abbott ensured that the state would remain in close contact with the public in the coming days about what is happening and what to expect.

"We are utilizing every applicable state agency to make sure that Texas will robustly respond to this extreme cold winter storm that is going to be sweeping across Texas," Abbott said.

He said the Texas Public Utility Commission spent the last year inspecting power generators, and "99% have passed inspection and are fully operational."

In addition to the prep work, the PUC will be staffed 24/7 during the cold front and will provide updates about any outages.

"They're already bringing more generation online sooner than what happened last year," Abbott said about ERCOT. "They have additional crews already deployed."

He explained that the state has a certain amount of megawatt power available across the state on any given day.

Although some people will lose power, Abbot said it isn't always a grid issue.

"People may lose power. It could be that power lines are down. Power lines run by the company that customers enter into contracts with," Abbott said. "Those power lines could go down because a tree falls on the power lines and the power lines are no longer, at that particular time, able to deliver power to a home."

He said weather conditions like ice on power lines and trees could also cause outages.

"That doesn't mean that there are problems with the power grid in the state of Texas," Abbott warned. "It means that, for a short period of time, a particular neighborhood may be without power."

ERCOT said it expects the highest demand from the grid to be on Friday morning. Currently, officials are expecting that they will have an excess of 15,000 megawatts of power available, even at the time of highest demand.

RELATED: Here's how you can check on the Texas grid in real-time

The fear that the power won't stay on if temperatures hit freezing is real for Texans. Now ERCOT has rolled out a way that you can check that supply in real-time.

In 12 to 18 hours, Abbott said TxDOT is expecting winter precipitation that could cause severe road conditions.

"Not only will the cold coming in on the north side of Texas and the panhandle region, but also precipitation. Some of it will be snow. Some of it will be sleet. Some of it will be freezing rain. Some of it will be rain that will freeze on roadways," Abbott said. "That, over the coming days, will continue to come across the state of Texas."

Abbott warned that there will be "thousands and thousands of miles" of Texas roadways that will be extremely dangerous to travel on.

He said treacherous road conditions could put lives in danger, and drivers should proceed with caution and stay home when necessary.

TxDOT has already deployed 4,000 personnel to prepare roads. In some areas, pre-treatment began Sunday. In other areas that got rain Monday, like Houston, pre-treatment will begin Tuesday.

Texans can visit to learn in advance what driving conditions will look like in certain areas.

In addition to energy and roadway preparations, state officials have also stationed food and water in regions across the state expected to be impacted by severe weather.

Abbott said warehouses are stocked with blankets, cots, medical supplies and more.

"Be aware of, and follow all advice, to make sure, over the course of the winter storm, you avoid carbon monoxide poisoning," Abbott advised.

Texas Division of Emergency Management officials reminded Texans that now is the time to take care of the four P's: People, pets, pipes and plants.

It's almost been one year since the last major freeze left thousands of Texans in the cold, without power.

Since last year's winter storm, the state has made improvements to the power grid. But is it enough? Here's what the experts think.

More than 200 people across the state died after the power grid failed, according to a state report.

FORECAST: Rain moves out overnight, arctic cold front blows in later this week

This time around, there are some things in our favor.

First, it is not going to get as cold as it did during the deep freeze in February 2021, and the cold temperatures aren't going to be statewide.

Meteorologists also predict that it isn't going to last as long.

Meanwhile, the state has spent a year making improvements to the power grid.

Officials said it could take another year or two for all the work to be finished.

With another winter storm on the way, ABC13 asked an energy expert what he thinks about the power staying on. He said right now, the answer depends on how bad the storm gets.

"We get those types of winter storms, maybe every 10 years. If it happens to come in the next two or three months, I would worry about the state of Texas' grid," UH Chief Energy Officer Ramanan Krishnamoorti said. "If it happens next winter, I think we will be better off."

Energy Ogre CEO, Jesson Bradshaw is watching closely as well. Last year, he sounded the alarm days before the winter freeze crippled the state. He's confident a repeat isn't coming this week.

"The reality is some of these power generation companies lost tens or hundreds of millions of dollars last year, and those are the types of things all companies pay attention to and they don't want a repeat of those scenarios," Bradshaw explained.

Another change compared to 2021, is the amount people will be charged for power during the winter season. In 2021, Griddy customers received massive bills.

The company sold customers power on wholesale prices. Bradshaw said the majority of those companies are gone.

Most customers use a fixed, or variable plan. Bradshaw said even though power prices may rise this week, it shouldn't impact customers.

However, if you're using more power to stay warm, it could increase your bill simply because you're using more energy.