Startling new information came to light in a board meeting held by ERCOT (The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, Inc.) on Wednesday morning. One chart presented showed that the state was just 4 minutes and 37 seconds away from a blackout that might have crippled the power system for months.
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CEO Bill Magness faced an inquiry about the severity of these power outages and the agency’s failure to predict a crisis. One board member criticized Magness for not doing enough to warn the board in a meeting held just five days before the storm hit.
In his presentation to the board, Magness’s slides revealed an updated analysis that showed 48.6% of the state’s power generating units shut down at the height of the outages. His responses threw into question the forecast models currently used to predict winter weather as well as the state’s power needs.
The Dallas/Fort Worth area was at or below freezing temperatures for longer than 140 hours, according to ERCOT’s weather data. The demand for power hit a record high while all types of power plants, as well as natural gas delivery lines to some, shut down in the cold. This forced ERCOT to order outages to prevent a devastating collapse of the entire power system.
At the meeting, Magness expressed his frustration about how long it took to restart certain power plants, resulting in the loss of lives and damage to homes.
Today, state lawmakers will begin their investigation into last week’s power outages that left millions of Texans freezing in sub-zero temperatures. It will be interesting to see what they find out.
Apart from Bill Magness, lawmakers are also expected to hear from the Railroad Commission and the Public Utility Commission. Some of the key issues they’ll be discussing include why the grid wasn’t weatherized before the storm arrived, if the state was regulating the energy system enough, and if some of the blame could be shifted to themselves for not holding these agencies accountable in the first place.