‘Significant icing event’: Gov. Abbott addresses severe winter weather, power grid concerns

AUSTIN, Texas – As a strong artic cold front moves across Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott held a press conference Thursday, providing an update on the severe winter weather.

The governor was joined by representatives from the Texas Division of Emergency Management, ERCOT, Public Utility Commission of Texas, Railroad Commission of Texas, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Military Department and several other agencies.

Abbott said Texas is seeing a significant icing but ensured that the power grid is performing very well, as of Thursday.

“We are dealing with the most significant icing events that we’ve had in the state of Texas in at least several decades,” Abbott said.

He said ERCOT’s graph shows that it is meeting expected power demand and its capacity. The grid shows that it has plenty of power available for early Thursday and Friday. Abbott said the grid is expected to peak demand Friday but has 10,000 megawatts of extra power capacity. He explained that amount is enough to supply two million homes. He also noted that the grid has more than 20,000 megawatts of extra power over current demand.

“Even though, at this time, we have extra supply, there are about 70,000 customers in Texas without power,” the governor said.

How are thousands of Texans without power if the grid is fully functioning and has extra power supply? Abbott answered that question by stating the reasons are issues with local power providers. He said heavy winds, downed tree limbs and icing conditions have impacted power lines.

Abbott advised that anyone without power should call their local power providers at PUC.Texas.gov/storm.

He said the state is assisting local power providers by supplying extra resources, such as bringing in 2,000 linemen outside the state to help repair trucks.

The governor signed a proclamation that will authorize the Texas Department of Public Safety to wave some regulations that will expedite repair trucks to come into the state faster and easier to help assist with demands across the state. As of now, 17 counties across Texas impacted by the ice storm have been listed in the proclamation and more will be added as the governor sees fit.

Abbott provided other reasons to have confidence in the grid:

- Texas has more than 15% power capacity

- State has more reserve power than last year

- 99% of power generators have pass inspection compared to last year

- More natural gas facilities are designated as critical infrastructure to ensure operation during winter storm

- Several days of natural gas reserved

- Grid has extra 10,000 megawatts available for extra demand

Abbott said the Texas grid is now more reliable than it has ever been.

The state has also deployed several winter weather packages to assist local governments in weather response.

Public Utility Commission of Texas Chairman Peter Lake said they have received reports about the power outages and have been working with transmission companies to help restore power as quickly as possible. He reiterated the governor by asking residents to report power outages to local providers and check PUC.Texas.gov/storm.

Lake said PUC is operating the grid in a conservative approach. He ensured that the grid has met federal standards compared to last year.

ERCOT CEO Brad Jones said the grid’s forecast has increased by 3,000 megawatts and wind expectations. ERCOT is making sure it is communicating effectively and accurately to address any problems or concerns.

In addition, Jones said no generators have come offline and the weatherization program they have in place in working.

Railroad Commission of Texas Commissioner Christi Craddick noted that they are conducting daily operational calls with gas providers and that gas should stay on during the winter weather. Craddick said they have additional support crews available if any problems arise. RRC has conducted over 4,000 weatherization site inspections and that gas is flowing.

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