A “fragile” energy grid has been fully restored in Texas, which has been battered by a historic winter storm – but some 280,000 homes remained without power Friday and 13 million people have seen their water services disrupted, according to reports.
The restoration came as officials with the entity that operates the grid said it was “seconds and minutes” away from a catastrophic failure that could have left residents in the dark for months, the Texas Tribune reported.
Gov. Greg Abbott, who confirmed that all power-generating plants in the Lone Star State were online as of late Thursday, urged lawmakers to pass legislation to ensure the energy grid was prepared for cold weather in the future, Reuters reported.
“What happened this week to our fellow Texans is absolutely unacceptable and can never be replicated again,” Abbott told reporters as he lashed out at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, a cooperative responsible for 90 percent of the state’s electricity.
The governor said ERCOT had assured officials before the storm that the grid was prepared for the frigid weather.
Judge Lina Hidalgo, the top elected official in Harris County, which includes Houston, said the number of homes without power in her county had fallen to 20,000 from 1.4 million a few nights ago.
“The lights may be on, but we’re not quite yet out of the dark, we’re not quite yet out of all the challenges,” Hidalgo told reporters Thursday afternoon. “We’re not through this yet.”
She warned Houston residents to prepare for the worst.
“The grid is still fragile. There is more cold weather coming tonight. So that’s going to put pressure on these power plants that have just come back on,” Hidalgo said.
ERCOT officials said the state was dangerously close to the worst-case scenario of uncontrolled blackouts across the state.
On Monday, grid operators saw warning signs that huge amounts of energy supply was dropping so they began what was meant to be rolling blackouts that lasted for days for millions of Texans, the Texas Tribune reported.
Natural gas-fired plants, utility scale wind power and coal plants tripped offline due to the extreme cold – while the demand for energy spiked as consumers and businesses turned up the heat.
“It needed to be addressed immediately,” ERCOT President Bill Magness, said, the news outlet reported. “It was seconds and minutes [from possible failure] given the amount of generation that was coming off the system.”
Grid operators had to act swiftly to cut the amount of power provided, Magness said, because if they had waited, “then what happens in that next minute might be that three more [power generation] units come offline, and then you’re sunk.”
If operators hadn’t acted immediately, he said, the state could have suffered blackouts that “could have occurred for months,” and left residents in an “indeterminately long” crisis.
And if the grid had gone totally offline, the damage to power infrastructure could have taken months to repair, said Bernadette Johnson, senior vice at Enverus, an oil and gas software and information company in Austin.
“As chaotic as it was, the whole grid could’ve been in blackout,” she told the Texas Tribune. “ERCOT is getting a lot of heat, but the fact that it wasn’t worse is because of those grid operators.”