What Is Wrong With The Texas Power Grid?

By Anna Thompson

Between the 2021 blackouts throughout Texas, and the current electrical failings during the February 2023 freezes, it’s obvious to many Texans that not much has changed in two years. 

Via Dean Franklin on Flickr

The 2021 outages in Central Texas have been blamed on one thing – Ice. The accumulation of ice on trees leads to branches going down over power lines, which leads to power cuts. That, coupled with equipment seizing up in the freezing temperatures, can lead to blackouts that can last for days, for thousands of people. However, ERCOT – the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, and Austin Energy seem reluctant to take responsibility for these blackouts, chalking them up to “bad luck” instead of their failure to maintain lines and protect infrastructure. 

So, what can be done about outside infrastructure that isn’t prepared to be outside?

According to Mose Buchele, lots has already been done by ERCOT. They claim that the same levels of power generating failures have decreased as a result of the implementation of weatherization requirements. Along with that, market movements are also said to push more electricity onto the system earlier when an extreme weather event occurs. But for some odd reason, ERCOT refuses to acknowledge these changes. 

So what does ERCOT say about weatherizing the grid? According to them, nobody knows. There is no plan going forward for making the grid more resilient, and the Texas government won’t admit anything is wrong. In addition to the reluctance to recognize that these changes have done good, Governor Greg Abbott claims that the grid has already been fixed. 

So, how does this reluctance look for Texans in 2023?

Not great. As of February 2, more than 400,000 electricity customers statewide lacked power because of an ice storm. This is a jarring reminder of the fact that because Texas is warm for a large portion of the year, policymakers historically have not given priority to preparations for severe winter weather, and won’t be doing so for the foreseeable future. 

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