The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages 75 percent of the Lone Star State’s electric grid, did not conduct any on-site inspections of its power plants to evaluate their winter preparedness due to COVID-19 protocols, a report from NBC 5 in Dallas suggests.
Instead of sending inspectors to complete important examinations at state power facilities to ensure they were adequately equipped to handle winter weather and high electricity demands, ERCOT management chose to host “virtual tabletop exercises” for only a portion of their plants, keeping their in-person contact limited to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Beyond permitting only 94 of the state’s 600 facilities to participate in the virtual meeting centered on preparing for winter, ERCOT also did not require any plants to adapt their protocols for the colder months, instead just offering a list of suggested guidance for plant operators to follow voluntarily. When the recent storm hit Texas and these unprepared power plants, 40 percent of ERCOT’s generators were rendered out of commission and couldn’t perform under the wintery conditions.
While ERCOT CEO Bill Magness said it is “too early to speculate” what exactly caused the electricity council to cut off the power for millions of Texans during some of the coldest, harshest weather many Texas cities have ever encountered, he promised the utility provider would “be examining everything that happened here moment by moment.”
“The blame can be assessed very soon,” Magness said. “Blame will surely be assessed.”
ERCOT also told NBC 5 that “they believed power plant operators were doing a better job of winterizing in recent years” and this particular winter storm “was extraordinary and arrived with a much bigger impact than anticipated.”
While ERCOT attempts to save face with angry and cold Texans who suffered widespread, days-long power outages that were only supposed to last for up to 45 minutes during record subzero temperatures, nearly 12 million people in the Lone Star State are struggling with water problems such as lack of water, boil notices, and frozen pipes that suddenly burst, flooding their residences and businesses.