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Power grid operator: Texas isn’t “out of the woods yet,” but system is stabilizing

🕐 3 min read

by Jolie McCullough, Cassandra Pollock and Neelam Bohra, The Texas Tribune.

The operator of Texas’ power grid said Thursday that it has made significant progress in returning energy to the state’s system and is no longer having to order electricity providers to cut power to homes and businesses.

But many people across the state remain without power due to more local problems in the electrical system. And in a growing crisis, millions of people across the state have had their water service disrupted because of the winter storm.

During a virtual news conference Thursday, Electric Reliability Council of Texas CEO Bill Magness said the state isn’t “out of the woods yet” — but that he thinks “we’re in a glide path.”

“We’re still in very cold conditions, so we’re still seeing much higher than normal winter demand,” he told reporters. “If we do hit a bump and have some generation have to come back off, we may have to ask for outages but if we do, we believe they’ll be at the level where they could be rotating outages.”

Temperatures are expected to rise well above freezing across much of the state on Friday, which could further help the electricity situation.

It’s unclear how many people currently are lacking power in the state, though the number has declined significantly in the past 24 hours. ERCOT officials said those without electricity still are more likely to have been affected by ice storm damage on power distribution systems or are on systems that need to be manually restarted by crews after they were forced to shut down. Some large industrial facilities that voluntarily went offline are also still without power.

The improved situation is evident by the number of outages some of the biggest local power providers were reporting Thursday afternoon: 11% of Austin Energy customers are facing outages, compared to the 40% on Monday, and CPS Energy, which serves customers in the San Antonio area, reported that less than 1% of its customers were facing outages.

Oncor Electric Delivery, Texas’ largest utility, provides power for almost 4 million customers across Texas. It indicated outages were still affecting more than 150,000 people in its system. The progress comes after many Texans went days without power as temperatures were well below freezing.

As power returns for some, a new challenge has taken its place, however: As of Thursday morning, more than 13 million Texans were faced with water disruptions.

Cities across the state have required residents to start boiling water before using it for drinking, bathing or cleaning. Major cities including Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Fort Worth, Galveston and Corpus Christi, as well as a handfuls of cities in eastern, central and northern parts of Texas have all issued boil-water notices. Many Texans have had no running water at all for at least a day or more.

Disclosure: CPS Energy and Oncor have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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