ERCOT has projected that Texas could see widespread power outages if the state experiences severe winter weather on par with a storm that plunged temperatures below freezing for multiple days last year.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas already is raising alarms about the winter and tried to shore up power reserves by asking power plant operators to reactivate some shuttered natural gas and coal plants. However, ERCOT received few offers in the program and canceled it.
Here are five things to know about the risk of blackouts this winter:
What are the chances of rolling blackouts?
When Texas’ power demand outstrips available supply, ERCOT is forced to shut off power to some customers to maintain the stability of the grid.
The last time that happened was in February 2021, when a major winter storm led to equipment failures at power plants of all types and paralyzed some fossil fuel infrastructure. As the grid neared collapse, ERCOT ordered controlled outages that left millions of people without electricity. More than 200 people died.
ERCOT has predicted a 14.4% chance that it could order controlled outages – also known as rolling blackouts – if Texas experiences a storm similar to a severe cold snap the state saw from Dec. 22 to Dec. 25 last year, according to a seasonal assessment. In January, the chances grow to about 16.8%, the grid operator predicted.
The relatively high chances for blackouts only occur in scenarios where ERCOT modeled for extreme winter storms. The actual chances of blackouts are much lower, according to ERCOT.
When is the time for greatest risk?
The hour of 8 a.m. is when ERCOT has predicted the greatest chance for blackouts.
The reason mornings in the winter are the most troublesome is because that is when people begin waking up and using more electricity. The temperatures remain near daily lows, so heaters are more likely to be operating while people begin heating water and cooking meals.