As the ice melts in Texas, a new storm is brewing in the southern state—a flurry of inquiries and investigations are being launched to uncover why so many energy sources failed, leaving millions of people powerless, homeless, and in some cases – lifeless.
Most people blame the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) which operates Texas’ electrical grid and supplies power to 90 percent of the state’s electric load. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he’s launching an investigation into ERCOT and other entities that “grossly mishandled this week’s extreme winter weather.”
Texas Governor Gregg Abott has already ordered the Legislature to investigate ERCOT saying that “ERCOT downplayed the severity while telling the public that they were fully prepared for it.” Congressman Ro Khanna, Chairman of the Oversight Environmental Committee launched his own investigation into why so many fossil fuel sources failed amidst environmental pressures.
A Broader Perspective
A Propublica report, in association with the Texas Tribune explains that the state-wide power outages were a symptom of problems that Texans have dealt with in the past. Texas’ largest electricity producer Luminant suffered from major equipment malfunction during a severe storm in 2011. This resulted in a $750,000 fine from state energy regulators for failing to deliver promised power to the grid and forcing Texans to suffer rolling blackouts, similar to what they experienced in recent weeks.
An investigation by the Texas Public Utility Commision (PUC) concluded that power-generating companies like Luminant had failed to understand the “critical failure points” that could cause equipment to stop working in cold weather. On top of paying the fine, these power companies were required to address all potential failure points, including any effects of “weather design limits.”
But here’s the crazy part—the energy companies just said no. The energy companies said that the requirement was unnecessary and any attempt to identify specific weather design limits would be rendered meaningless. Instead of fighting back, the Texas PUC agreed and did not require Texas energy companies to identify areas where severe weather could cause problems for the electrical grid.
This decision has led to a series of cascading failures to shield the state’s electrical grid from winter storms. If regulators had forced energy companies to comply with addressing their weather design limits in 2011, perhaps Texans would not have had to suffer the cold in the dark 10 years later.
What are your thoughts on the Texas power outages? Let us know down in the comments.
This article originally published on GREY Journal.