AUSTIN (KXAN) — As millions of Texans continue to suffer without power during the freezing cold, Gov. Greg Abbott provided an update on the state’s emergency response as another round of rainfall is expected to hit the southern Texas over the next 24 hours.
Governor Abbott and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages the state’s electrical flow, are being criticized for what is seen as poor disaster preparedness after power generators for the state’s grid The state ran into trouble as temperatures plummeted earlier this week. .
Power outage update
An additional 6,000 megawatts of power have been added to the Texas grid, Abbott said, equivalent to restoring power to about 1.2 million homes. He hopes the restoration of the South Texas Project’s power plant, a nuclear generator, as well as coal-fired power can add an additional 2,000 megawatts, which would equate to 400,000 additional restored homes.
Abbott said gas generators come and go sporadically, but with their restoration he hopes another 3,000 megawatts can be added to the grid over the next 24 hours. That’s electricity for about 600,000 homes. About 19,800 megawatts of gas-fired generation are still offline due to mechanical problems or a lack of gas supply.
Some of the natural gas produced in Texas is currently shipped to locations outside the state. Governor Abbott said he is working to pass an order Wednesday that will last until Feb. 21 requiring those Texas producers to sell natural gas to Texas power generators. He also said the president is helping to deal with spikes in natural gas prices.
About 17,200 megawatts remain out of order due to freezing wind turbines or lack of sunlight for solar power, Abbott said.
Still, Abbott said ERCOT did not provide information on which areas will pick up power on Wednesday when power is distributed to 1.2 million homes. He said ERCOT needed more transparency.
Who gets the power?
Abbott explained and re-emphasized that decisions about rotating blackouts or who gets power and who doesn’t rest with local city-owned utilities or co-op-owned utilities. If they are owned by investors, such as Oncor, Center Point Energy, AEP or Texas-New Mexico Power, they are regulated by the Public Utilities Commission.
“An order has been issued to ensure that everyone subject to PUC regulation will have access to electricity at least on a rotational basis for the remaining period of time until the electricity is fully operational,” Abbott said. .
Broken pipes – what to do
Abbott suggested shutting off your water supply to prevent burst pipes from flooding your residence. He urged homeowners to start working with plumbers and insurance companies in the event of burst pipes in your homes.
To help respond to burst water pipes, Abbott said it would grant a waiver to already licensed plumbers who may not have gone on to further education in the past two years. These plumbers will be able to apply to help families and increase the response to this problem. Additionally, Abbott said they are working to obtain provisional licenses for out-of-state plumbers.
Chief Nim Kidd of the Texas Division of Emergency Management also provided an update at the press conference.
He said all 25 Texas districts under the Texas Department of Transportation are still affected. TxDOT has approximately 4,500 highway employees who operate more than 740 snowplows and 225 graders to help de-ice the highways and interstate system. There are more than 5,200 road sections still affected with 37 closures.
“I think one of the most important jobs they have right now is prioritizing and clearing routes to critical infrastructure and coordinating with local governments for access to hospitals, working with the Public Utilities Commission to ensure that the power plants are always in service. …and work with fuel sellers,” Kidd said.
Chief Kidd also added that TDEM is working alongside the Texas Military Department to locate unused generators at military bases to be dispatched across the state.
He also added that once the weather clears, the state will be able to transport more resources across the state, rather than relying on ground transportation.
Texas DPS Response
Kidd said about 3,300 Texas Department of Public Safety troops are on the roads 24 hours a day and are investigating about 1,600 crashes. This does not include accidents that local jurisdictions look into.
In addition to providing roadside assistance, investigating accidents and supporting other local law enforcement agencies, Kidd said DPS soldiers also delivered blood to hospitals, fuel to power plants. and helped relocate residents of nursing homes.
Mass boil water advisory
Executive Director Toby Baker of the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality reported that there were about 276 boil water advisories affecting just under 7 million Texans in the state. Another 263,000 are affected by non-operational systems. These should last for a while after the weather clears and power returns.
Baker said they work with labs that test water to help local water utilities monitor the status of their water.
Kidd said FEMA is helping with water resources and providing beds, blankets and generators. Eventually, the plan is to transport resources to hard-hit areas.
Texas Democrats criticized the governor’s speech on Wednesday.
“Texas is in dire straits. Texans are dying. Homes are destroyed, people are cold and hungry, and we don’t know when things will start to return to normal because our state government continues to fail,” President Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement.
Hinojosa went on to say that Abbott let the Texans down, keeping them in the dark both figuratively and literally.
“Millions of Texans are without power in freezing temperatures, many in the past 60 hours. At least 21 Texans are dead. Their blood is on Abbott’s hands,” Hinojosa added.
On Tuesday, Abbott hit the board and even asked for an investigation in the group’s energy management.
“The Electric Reliability Council of Texas has been anything but reliable for the past 48 hours,” Abbott said Tuesday. “Far too many Texans are without power and heat for their homes as our state faces freezing temperatures and harsh winter conditions. This is unacceptable. Reviewing ERCOT’s preparations and decisions is an urgent item so that we can get a full picture of what caused this problem and find long-term solutions. I thank my partners in the House and Senate for acting quickly on this challenge, and I will work with them to improve Texas’ power grid and ensure our state never experiences power outages like this again- this.
ERCOT, which many Texans may not even have been aware of before the winter storms, advises power companies on how much power they have to use safely at any given time.