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Texas Polar Vortex Freezes Wind, Natural Gas, and Coal Generation

February 16, 2021

Residents across Texas found themselves covered in snow and freezing temperatures this Monday February 15th. People went inside their cars and turned on heaters as the temperature in their homes without insulation dropped below 40 degrees.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) responsible for operating the electric grid issues rotating blackouts as generation assets including natural gas & coal, and wind became frozen and unable to operate. Blackouts lasted somewhere from 10 – 45 minutes before being rotated to a different location. On Monday afternoon 1.2M CenterPoint customers were without power including Houston, and this number increased throughout the evening as the weather became harsher.

Rolling blackouts are especially dangerous as people lose the ability to heat their homes as well. A man in his Dallas apartment lost power for 8 hours, having taped all doors and windows to keep the heat inside, and waiting for the power to come back on.

The ERCOT has set a new peak winter demand record of 69,150 MW, which is 3,200 MW higher than the previous peak set in 2018. This peak combined with insufficient generation devastated ERCOT on Monday as the cold weather set in.