(Natural News) Millions of Texans were without power for two straight days after a historically cold winter strained the state’s electricity grid, triggering a public health emergency in the country’s second-most populous state.
The power outages earlier this week prompted the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to open an inquiry into the incident. The agency said it would investigate along with the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), an international regulatory authority based in Atlanta, Georgia.
At a press conference on Thursday, Feb. 18, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott placed the blame for the outages squarely on the state’s power grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).
Abbot argued the council has not been reliable for the past 48 hours. The Republican governor has called for a reform of the council and declared it a top priority for state legislators in the current session. This would allow the Legislature to approve bills on the topic during the first 60 days of the session, which began on Jan. 12.
Abbot said reviewing the preparations and decisions by ERCOT would help them get a full picture of the cause of the problem. Doing so would also allow authorities to develop long-term solutions, he added.
On the other hand, a group of congressmen from North Texas sent ERCOT a letter on Wednesday. They asked the council to explain what it has done the weeks prior to prepare for the power outages.
NBC5 Investigates reported that ERCOT officials had reassured authorities less than a week before the winter storm struck Texas that the state’s power plants can withstand the elements. But the massive power outages that occurred have now raised questions about how such a failure of the state’s power grid could happen.
Abbot said that power has been restored to two million homes since Wednesday. However, some 325,000 still remain without power, mainly because of downed power lines. Abbot is now asking President Joe Biden to issue a major disaster declaration for Texas as officials continue to deal with a power and water crisis.
Additionally, Abbot has issued an order stopping natural gas produced in Texas from being shipped out of the state. The order, which is in effect until Feb. 21, requires producers that normally ship out of Texas to sell that natural gas to Texas power generators instead.
ERCOT under fire as anger sweeps Texas
ERCOT is a nonprofit that manages 90 percent of the power grid Texas uses. It came under fire on Tuesday as top state officials expressed frustration over its handling of the long-lasting power outages.
ERCOT officials said Tuesday that they could not estimate when the outages would end. More people could be left without power as well as they work to balance supply and demand to the state’s power grid.
ERCOT President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Magness said that they were aiming to avoid a shutdown of the grid while they were working on restoring power to residents. He added that a shutdown might last for an indeterminate amount of time.
But despite the supposed threat of a shutdown, Magness seemed to be pleased with how ERCOT was working to restore power. “I think we see really good signs of progress even though we have much work to do.”
But authorities and residents alike would beg to differ. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who woke up to one million people still without power in his city on Wednesday, said he knows people are frustrated. “So am I.”
Magness insists that the council did not underestimate the seriousness of the winter storm and that they, like the rest of the state, took “many steps” to prepare beforehand. (Related: 10 Practical tips that will help you survive a long-term disaster without electricity.)
The severe winter weather also threatens to overwhelm power grids in other states, including Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Nebraska and New Mexico.
The weather has also sent water service providers scrambling to manage their supplies, with some states now experiencing a water crisis as well on top of the power outages.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned on Wednesday that some states will face serious delays in receiving their doses of the coronavirus vaccines because of the outages and dangerous road conditions.
Go to Power.news for more articles with updates on the ongoing power crisis in Texas.