“‘No one can guarantee that there won’t be any’ power outages caused by demand on the grid.”
— Texas Gov. Greg Abbott
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has walked back a pledge from recent months that he would “keep the lights on” this winter no matter what, a sentiment meant to build confidence in the state’s uniquely structured independent power grid about a year after an ice storm cut power to millions of residents with deadly consequences.
The comments Tuesday came as winter storms blanketed much of the U.S. midweek, extending into Texas. The severe weather hits close to the first anniversary of Winter Storm Umi, which took several hundred lives.
Read: The 10 most expensive climate-change disasters of 2021 cost $170 billion — and this U.S. storm was No. 1
The National Weather Service says the system would not be as bad this time for Texas, at least based on current forecasts.
“No one can guarantee that there won’t be any” outages caused by demand on the power grid, Abbott said Tuesday, saying localized service interruptions are possible. “But what we will work to achieve, and what we’re prepared to achieve is that power is going to stay on across the entire state.”
In November, Abbott offered a promise for winter: “I can guarantee the lights will stay on,” he told Austin television station KTBC.
No large-scale power outages were reported early Wednesday in Texas, according to poweroutage.us. The state-run utility last month said all of its “electricity-generation units” had passed tougher inspections for this winter.
Still, Twitter reactions from some Texans showed their confidence remains shook.
A report late last year from the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) said the main Texas grid, which is unique in its state-run, and not regional, format, could see a power shortfall of 37% in extreme conditions,
NERC’s outlook suggests the state and its utility operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, which left 40% of its residents freezing and in the dark during that cold snap last winter isn’t prepared for a repeat.
Texas is a leading traditional energy producer, but also has a large wind-power presence. Natural gas NG00, +14.19% and wind WNDY, -0.79% service its electrical grid. The blackout was blamed on everything from freezing gauges to what some claim is the unreliability of wind, to poor planning for climate change-linked severe weather, as the biggest strain on the grid typically comes with summer heat.
Abbott, whose handling of last year’s blackouts is a top line of attack for his political opponents as the Republican seeks a third term in 2022, said thousands of miles of roads in Texas will become “extraordinarily dangerous” over the coming days, the Associated Press reported.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz tweeted winter preparedness advice, inviting his own storm of reaction ahead of another anniversary — one year since the lawmaker left the freezing state he represents for the warm sands of Cancun.
The Associated Press contributed.