Truthout - February 16, 2021

On Tuesday, millions of Texans woke up to find themselves without power as unusually cold conditions for the state knocked out the state’s power grid.

The blackouts began on Monday when the state grappled with a winter storm and record low temperatures. Over 4.3 million people in Texas remain without power as the state’s power grid struggles to keep up with high demand.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which operates the state’s grid, had originally announced 45-minute rolling blackouts starting around 1:25 a.m. in order to conserve energy. But the blackouts instead extended throughout the day and into Tuesday, and there is still uncertainty about when they will end.

On Friday, President Joe Biden approved Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s request for a federal state of emergency to be applied in the state. Ron Klain, Biden’s chief of staff, said on Tuesday that the White House is in communication with Texas and other states affected by the winter weather. Abbott has also deployed the National Guard to assist local authorities.

Unlike the rest of the country, which operates on two large interstate electric grids, Texas has its own grid. They established this independence in order to avoid federal regulators. Governor Abbott and officials from ERCOT say that the grid isn’t compromised — it’s the natural gas, coal and nuclear energy plants going offline that has mostly caused the outages, though wind turbines being frozen over also contributed to the problem.

ERCOT is not under the jurisdiction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and some say that the lack of federal oversight contributed to the blackouts currently affecting millions of citizens.

The grid “limped along on underinvestment and neglect until it finally broke under predictable circumstances,” Ed Hirs, energy fellow at the University of Houston, told the Houston Chronicle. “For more than a decade, generators have not been able to charge what it costs them to produce electricity.” ...
Read the full report at Truthout