April 1, 2021
“We were woefully unprepared for this kind of cold … This is a matter of life and death.”
Texas *mostly* has its own electric grid – in part to remain independent, self-reliant and free of federal regulation.
- Why It Matters: Bloomberg News describes the challenges this way: “The greatest forced blackout in U.S. history, as this event has almost certainly become, was the result of a systemic and multifaceted failure. …Power plants weren’t fully weatherized, wiping out generation capacity. The ones that were still standing struggled to get enough fuel, with shale wells experiencing so-called freeze-offs. Many wind turbines stopped spinning. Texas, with a grid notoriously isolated from the rest of the U.S., was unable to call on neighboring states for help.”
- Nearly a quarter of the state’s energy comes from wind turbines – many of which froze in West Texas.
- But here’s further context: “One nuclear reactor and several coal-fired plants went offline, but ‘Texas is a gas state,’ Michael Webber, an energy resources professor at the University of Texas, told The Texas Tribune. And ‘gas is failing in the most spectacular fashion right now.’ Instruments and other components at gas-fired power plants iced over, and ‘by some estimates, nearly half of the state’s natural gas production has screeched to a halt due to the extremely low temperatures,’ as electric pumps lost power and uninsulated pipelines and gas wells froze, the Tribune reports.”
- ERCOT = the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which oversees most *but not all* of the state’s electric grid. More than 3 million people remain without power, and questions remain about when power will be restored.
- Broader Context: This is a historic storm in an area of the country that typically does not get long stretches of snow and ice.
- Developing Story.
by Jenna Lee,