Nearly 3 million customers without power as Texas freezes

By Maria Caspani (Reuters) - A rare deep freeze in Texas that raised demand for power forced the U.S. state's electric grid operator on Monday to impose rotating blackouts that left nearly 3 million customers without electricity

Reuters February 16, 2021 01:10:22 IST
Nearly 3 million customers without power as Texas freezes

Nearly 3 million customers without power as Texas freezes

By Maria Caspani

(Reuters) - A rare deep freeze in Texas that raised demand for power forced the U.S. state's electric grid operator on Monday to impose rotating blackouts that left nearly 3 million customers without electricity.

The PowerOutage.us website, which tracks power outages, said 2,802,978 Texas customers were experiencing outages at 12:18 p.m. CST (1818 GMT).

President Joe Biden declared an emergency on Monday, unlocking federal assistance to Texas, where temperatures on Monday ranged from 28 to minus 8 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 2 to minus 22 Celsius).

Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport said it 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 the inclement weather.

The freeze also took a toll on the energy industry in Texas, by far the country's largest crude producer, shutting oil refineries and forcing restrictions from natural gas pipeline operators.

Apart from Texas, much of the United States was in the grip of bone-chilling weather over the three-day Presidents Day holiday weekend.

The National Weather Service said an Arctic air mass had spread southwards, well beyond areas accustomed to freezing weather, with winter storm warnings posted for most of the Gulf Coast region, Oklahoma and Missouri.

In Louisiana, where freezing temperatures also prompted power outages and road closures, some parishes imposed curfews to keep residents off the road.

The deep freeze sweeping Texas reached the northern part of neighboring Mexico as well, where authorities said they were working to fix power outages that affected 400,000 users.

RECORD DEMAND

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) sought to cut power use in response to a winter record of 69,150 megawatts (MW) on Sunday evening, more than 3,200 MW higher than the previous winter peak in January 2018.

About 10,500 MW of customer load was shed at the highest point, enough power to serve approximately two million homes, it said, adding that extreme weather caused many generating units across fuel types to trip offline and become unavailable.

"Controlled outages will continue through today and into early tomorrow, possibly all of tomorrow," Dan Woodfin, director of systems operations at ERCOT, said at a Monday briefing.

The storms knocked out nearly half the Texas wind power generation capacity on Sunday. Wind generation ranks as the second-largest source of electricity in Texas, accounting for 23% of state power supplies, ERCOT estimates.

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

An emergency notice issued by the regulator urged customers to limit power usage and prevent an uncontrolled systemwide outage.

The spot price of electricity on the Texas power grid spiked more than 10,000% on Monday. [NGA/]

(Reporting by Aishwarya Nair and Diptendu Lahiri in Bengaluru; Editing by Howard Goller)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

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