It’s wait and see for Texans, as newly winterized electric grid is tested in upcoming storm

Experts expect any outages to be hourslong rather than dayslong like last year. They’re also watching for potential issues with a vulnerable natural gas supply system.

By Kristen CabreraFebruary 2, 2022 11:16 am,

Update: For the latest news on the winter storm, see The Texas Newsroom’s reporting here.

Quay Garrett Emmons isn’t taking any chances this year. During last February’s winter storm, she was 10-months pregnant and without power for days. One thing she says she learned was to keep everything charged.

“Keep all of your power banks and rechargeable batteries and things like that charged up always,” she said.

The reliability of the Texas electrical grid is top of mind for her. The National Weather Service is warning of hazardous conditions across Texas as the state braces for an upcoming winter storm starting Wednesday. Though it’s not forecast to match the intensity and length of last year’s February storm, there are still concerns of what the freeze will bring.

The 2021 storm weakened Emmons’ trust in the state’s handling of its power supply, and the leaders in charge of it.

“I do not trust the Texas electrical grid. Honestly, this is probably not the answer you’re looking for but the biggest thing I’ve done to prepare is donate money to Beto O’Rourke’s campaign,” she said.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbot reassured Texans that the grid is ready for the winter storm. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, which operates the Texas grid, has inspected more than 300 power plants. New regulations since last year’s blackout required those plants to winterize.

Doug Lewin, president of Austin-based oil-and-gas company Stoic Energy says outages could happen but he’s not expecting another massive blackout.

“In the event there were outages, they would not be dayslong, again, unless the forecasts shifts and we get a repeat of last year. You know, they might last for a few minutes or hours but not days, just because the storm is not nearly as deep,” Lewin said.

ERCOT projects that high energy demand will peak on Friday.

But a main cause of last year’s blackout was a disruption in the state’s natural gas supply.  And there haven’t been new regulations enacted to protect that system from a winter freeze.

So, state regulators and nervous residents will be watching to see how the Texas grid weathers this storm – the first test since last year.

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