Rare freezing process leaves more than 2 million customers in Texas without power

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President Joe Biden declared an emergency on Monday (file)

A rare freezing condition in Texas that increased demand for electricity forced the US state’s electric utility to experience rotating blackouts on Monday that left more than 2 million customers out of power.

On the PowerOutage.us website – an ongoing project to track power outages – 2,703,967 customers in Texas were affected by outages at 10:49 p.m. CST (1649 GMT).

President Joe Biden declared an emergency on Monday and released federal aid to Texas, where temperatures on Monday ranged from 21 to minus 8 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 6 to minus 22 degrees Celsius).

George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston said in a statement that its airfield would remain closed until 1 p.m. CST (1900 GMT), while the city’s Hobby Airport will cease operations until at least Tuesday due to bad weather.

Aside from Texas, much of the United States, from the Pacific Northwest to the Great Plains to the Mid-Atlantic States, experienced bonfire weather during the three-day Presidents Day holiday weekend.

In Louisiana, where freezing temperatures also resulted in blackouts and road closures, some communities imposed curfews to keep residents off the streets.

RECORD DEMAND

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) attempted to reduce electricity consumption in response to a winter record of 69,150 MW on Sunday evening, more than 3,200 MW higher than the previous winter summit in January 2018.

Around 10,500 MW of customer load was reduced at the highest point, enough electricity to supply around two million households. The extreme weather meant that many generating units of various fuel types failed offline and were no longer available.

Early Monday it was said that more than 30,000 MW of power generation had been pushed out of the system and that rotating outages would likely last all morning and could continue until the weather emergency ended.

Newsbeep

“Controlled outages will continue today and into tomorrow, possibly tomorrow,” said Dan Woodfin, director of systems operations at ERCOT, in a briefing Monday.

The storms knocked off almost half of Texan’s wind power capacity on Sunday. Wind generation is the second largest source of electricity in Texas, according to ERCOT estimates, and accounts for 23% of the state’s electricity supply.

Of the more than 25,000 megawatts of wind power capacity normally available in Texas, 12,000 megawatts were out of service on Sunday morning, an ERCOT spokeswoman said.

In an emergency notice issued by the supervisory authority, customers were asked to limit power consumption and prevent an uncontrolled system-wide failure.

The National Weather Service said an arctic air mass had spread south, well beyond areas accustomed to frost, and winter storm warnings had been issued for most of the Gulf Coast region, Oklahoma and Missouri.

The spot price for electricity in the Texas power grid rose by more than 10,000% on Monday. [NGA/]

The cold snap has caused production disruptions and downtime at oil refineries and natural gas facilities across Texas.[REF/OUT]

The power grid operator Southwest Power Pool, which coordinates the power supply in a large part of the country, issued an “Energy Emergency Alert Level 2” on Monday due to an energy shortage.

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