Gov. Abbott says Texas grid prepared this time to handle demand ahead of polar vortex

After Winter Storm Uri, the Texas Legislature implemented a series of reforms and oversight measures.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

The Texas grid is reliable and prepared to handle electricity demand when subfreezing temperatures hit most of the state on Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott said. Cold temperatures with wind chill warnings remain in effect through the Christmas holiday weekend.

"The State of Texas is ready to fully and robustly respond to the severe cold weather event expected to impact Texas this holiday week, and our state's electrical grid is absolutely prepared to meet demand over the course of this storm," Abbott said. "As we continue to monitor the weather, we remain in close coordination with local leaders across the state to ensure they have the resources needed to keep our communities safe."

Public Utility Commission Chairman Peter Lake and Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) President and CEO Pablo Vegas said Texas’ electrical grid is prepared for cold weather and more power is available than before, including having enough backup fuel to prevent any power loss.

ERCOT also announced that over the past 18 months, it, the PUC, and elected officials have implemented reforms to increase grid reliability.

“As a result, the reliability and resiliency of the grid has been strengthened significantly,” ERCOT said in a statement.

“Providing Texans with a reliable electric grid is our highest priority. As we monitor weather conditions, we want to assure Texans that the grid is resilient and reliable,” Vegas said, adding that ERCOT would be issuing public notices “as weather conditions change throughout the coming week.”

After Winter Storm Uri, the Texas Legislature implemented a series of reforms and oversight measures. Since then, ERCOT grid improvements include inspections of electric generation units and transmission facilities; a fuel supply service that provides additional sources of fuel onsite for generators; generators and transmission operators scheduling maintenance periods to prepare equipment for winter; creating a fast frequency response service to ensure generators can power up quickly during rapidly changing conditions; implementing reliability unit commitments to bring more generation online sooner; creating a critical supply chain and critical infrastructure map to share locations and connectivity of all critical parts of the Texas power infrastructure; and improving communications with several state agencies.

The Railroad Commission of Texas also began inspecting operators’ weatherization practices and issued several mandates overseeing extensive monitoring and preparedness efforts by the industry.

The Texas Oil and Gas Association also announced that operators in the Texas oil and natural gas industry have been preparing for freezing temperatures in the Permian Basin, where the arctic front is expected to bring temperatures to the low teens in Midland.

But “even with these winterization techniques in place, production fluctuations are expected during extreme weather conditions,” it says. “Variation in daily natural gas production occurs with sudden temperature changes because these are field operations, not controlled factory settings.”

Even on mild weather days, daily natural gas production can fluctuate. But Texas is unique compared to other states, the association says, because of its vast natural gas storage infrastructure.

“During significant weather events and expected production declines, daily production combined with natural gas storage provides ample access to product for power generation and local distribution companies that have contracted for these services,” the association says. “Texas typically produces/markets about 29 bcf/d of natural gas, and natural gas used for electricity generation is typically only about 5 bcf/d. Texas has 544 bcf of working natural gas storage capacity, enough to power 5 bcf/day of power generation for approximately 109 days.”

Texans can learn more about how the state’s oil and natural gas industry has prepared for winter weather here, access Texas Department of Emergency Management cold weather resources here, warming center information here and monitor local power outages here.

If damaging winds cause local power loss, Texans are encouraged to contact their local power providers.