Nearly 70% of ERCOT Customers Lost Power During Texas Winter Storm
Almost 70% of those served by Texas’ main electrical grid lost power during last month’s historic winter storm, while almost half were left without drinkable water.
And while the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) had advised customers to prepare for short-term, rolling blackouts ahead of the storm, a new study from the University of Houston found that the affected households actually went without power for an average of 42 hours.
ERCOT Failures were a Catastrophe for Texas
ERCOT is the non-profit agency responsible for overseeing Texas’s unregulated electrical grid, which powers about 90% of its homes and businesses. That grid could not keep pace with demand during last month’s winter storm and ultimately left more than 4 million Texans to cope without light and heat in sub-freezing temperatures for days.
In the weeks since the storm, it’s become clear that ERCOT’s failure to adequately regulate the grid was a major contributor to the disaster. For one thing, the agency has long refused to enforce a “reserve margin” of extra power available above expected demand. ERCOT also doesn’t require that private power companies weatherize their equipment. Without such precautions in place, much of the state’s energy infrastructure froze in the cold and was unable to deliver what little power that was available.
“This was as catastrophic as we all believed it to be,” Kirk Watson, founding dean for UH’s Hobby School of Public Affairs, told the Texas Tribune.
“I’m hoping the people start recognizing that these kinds of things are going to be happening more frequently,” said Watson, a former Democratic state senator. “We need to avoid the politics of things like climate change and instead focus on the reality of what’s happening and not allow people to be shivering in their homes in Texas without power and without water.”
ERCOT Power Outage Death Toll Exceeds Hurricane Harvey
The Texas power outage wasn’t just an inconvenience – it also proved deadly.
So far, officials have linked 111 deaths to the winter storm and resulting ERCOT blackouts – that’s more than occurred during Hurricane Harvey. The majority of victims died of hypothermia due to the lack of heat. Others succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning, medical equipment failures, exacerbation of chronic illness, lack of home oxygen, falls, fires, and motor vehicle accidents.
The most deaths occurred in the Houston Metro Region, with Harris County reporting 31.
Unfortunately, the number of dead is expected to rise, as Texas authorities are still investigating many other fatalities that occurred during the winter weather disaster.
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