Failing power plants, rolling blackouts, and a spike in demand as Texas is hijacked by a harsh February winter snowstorm – this was the scenario exactly a decade ago as blackouts rolled through Texas.
A post-mortem at the time – including a key finding that state officials recommended but did not mandate winter protections for generating facilities – has renewed relevance as Texas is roiled by a record store that has left millions without power for at least three days amid plunging temperatures.
A combination of those 2011 findings, as well as reports from the state grid operators that generators and natural gas pipelines froze during the current calamity and Austin American-Statesman interviews with current and former utility executives and energy experts, suggest a light regulatory touch and cavalier operator approach involving winter protections of key industrial assets.
“You could take out ‘2011’ and pop in ‘2021,’ and there is going to be a lot of similarities” between the deficiencies in the grid found in the report 10 years ago and those plaguing it now, said Dave Tuttle, an Energy Institute research associate at the University of Texas.
Had the recommendations been followed, either voluntarily by power generators and transmission companies or because of mandates by regulators, many Texans likely would be a lot warmer now, Tuttle said.
“It’s not like the technology isn’t there” to keep electricity flowing during extremely low temperatures, he said. “There are people who live in a lot colder climates than we do” without losing power.