Live Updates: Winter Storms 2021: NPR

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People are shopping from a gas station Monday in Austin, Texas. A winter storm brought historic cold to the state, causing traffic delays and millions of customers without power.

Montinique Monroe / Getty Images


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Montinique Monroe / Getty Images


People are shopping from a gas station Monday in Austin, Texas. A winter storm brought historic cold to the state, causing traffic delays and millions of customers without power.

Montinique Monroe / Getty Images

As Texans face their second day of rotating intentional blackouts, Gov. Greg Abbott has said reforming the group that runs the state’s electricity grid is an emergency item the legislature needs to address. during its current session. Investigation is needed to prevent further such blackouts, Abbott said.

“The Electric Reliability Council of Texas has been anything but reliable for the past 48 hours,” Abbott said. “Far too many Texans are without power and heat for their homes as our state faces freezing temperatures and a harsh winter. This is unacceptable.”

The governor said he wanted “to get a full picture of what caused this problem and find long-term solutions.”

Roughly 4.4 million customers were without power Tuesday at noon in Texas, according to the tracking site PowerOutage.us. On the same day, many cities in Texas and neighboring states saw record high temperatures, such as -1 in Dallas-Fort Worth, 12 in San Antonio and 19 in Corpus Christi – erasing marks that had lasted for more than 100 years.

Electricity customers across Texas have been experiencing blackouts since the early hours of Monday morning, after the state’s grid operator quickly stepped up a three-tier energy emergency declaration early Monday morning.

ERCOT, which manages electricity for about 90% of the state’s electrical load, said the severe conditions were causing problems for all types of electricity generators, from natural gas to wind and solar.

“Every grid operator and every power company is fighting to restore power right now,” said ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness, noted.

Faced with a combination of power grid outages and freezing cold, utilities and government officials in Texas are asking people who lack electricity to report to warming centers.

Impressive price increases statewide

Alarming messages are coming from electricity retailers who normally offer customers low prices on the basis of daily wholesale rates. With these rates skyrocketing, companies are telling customers to prepare for the sticker shock. And at least one company is urging its customers to switch suppliers, at least in the short term.

“The high prices are expected to continue through the end of the week,” the supplier said Gate told customers. As this image came into focus over the weekend, Griddy published a guide to help customers switch to another retail supplier to avoid steep price increases.

But people who want to switch to a new energy supplier might have a hard time finding one right away.

“The earliest possible start date for a new registration or a change is Saturday February 20” Cirro Energy said. Other suppliers including Dependent, quote the same date to accept any new account.

Unlike a market-rate company like Griddy, companies like Cirro and Reliant promise invoices that aren’t as vulnerable to sudden increases resulting from high demand. They also allow customers to sign up for invoices that are averaged over time, which mitigates price spikes and makes spending more predictable. But for now, like much of Texas, they’re swamped by a blast of arctic air.

Until recently, the average price of electricity in Texas was just over 12 cents per kilowatt hour, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Even before the full effects of the storm were felt, Griddy warned customers on Friday that prices had risen on average to about 30 cents per kilowatt hour. Things got even worse over the Presidents Day weekend and holiday.

With high demand and market pressures increasing costs, wholesale electricity prices “were over $ 9,000 per megawatt hour late Monday morning, compared to pre-storm prices of less than $ 50 per megawatt hour. megawatt hour ”. Reuters reported.

One megawatt hour equals 1,000 kilowatt hours. On average, a U.S. residential utility customer normally uses around 877 kWh each month, according to EIA.

As the cost of electricity skyrocketed, Griddy advised his customers to change.

“We want what’s right for our consumers, so we encourage them to leave,” said Michael Fallquist, CEO of Griddy. Bloomberg News. “We believe that transparency and honesty will bring them back” after the emergency has passed, he added.

Utilities and power companies are also urging people to reduce their energy use, asking them to set their thermostats to no more than 68 degrees and to minimize their use of household appliances. They also ask people to close their blinds and shades to reduce heat loss through windows.

Spinning outages include “customers who had power restored before” during the winter storm, says Power & Light Garland, northeast of Dallas.

Uneven impact by necessity, according to energy suppliers

In service areas, blackouts do not affect all neighborhoods in the same way – a phenomenon that has drawn criticism from customers, but which, according to energy providers, is linked to the need to maintain power in facilities with critical needs such as hospitals, water plants and emergency rooms. services.

“The parts of our service area that experience failures are based on the condition of the circuit they are on”, Austin Energy said. “The powered zones probably share a circuit with a critical load circuit” that includes a hospital or other critical facility.

In a normal emergency, Austin Energy says, “We rotate outages throughout our service area. Unfortunately, we are unable to rotate tips at this time as there are no other non-critical load circuits available for tip rotation. “

The best solution right now, the company adds, is for customers who have electricity to keep it while utilities and generators work to restore capacity.

“The number of controlled stops that we have to make remains high”, says Dan Woodfin, Senior Director of ERCOT System Operations. He added: “We are optimistic about our ability to reduce the number throughout the day.”

The operator and energy providers are also warning customers to prepare their homes for power back on, primarily by unplugging appliances and turning off the thermostat.

“Too much load on the restored circuits at once can cause another failure”, ERCOT says.


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