The Texas power grid is failing again. On Friday, Brad Jones, interim CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) – the state’s power grid operator – released a cautionary statement that warned Texans that they must reduce energy consumption to prevent a collapse of the grid after a number of energy generating facilities failed and reduced the capacity of the grid by enough mega-wattage to power up to 580,000 homes.
“This afternoon, six power generation facilities tripped offline resulting in the loss of approximately 2,900 MW of electricity. At this time, all generation resources available are operating. We’re asking Texans to conserve power when they can by setting their thermostats to 78-degrees or above and avoiding the usage of large appliances (such as dishwashers, washers and dryers) during peak hours between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. through the weekend,” Jones’ statement read.
In a not so convincing statement, Texas Governor Greg Abbott tried to “reassure” Texans about the grid, tweeting:
We continue to work closely to ensure Texas’ power grid remains reliable & meets the needs of Texans. pic.twitter.com/QpkfTzmkun
— Gov. Greg Abbott (@GovAbbott) May 13, 2022
Amid record-high temperatures, even though summer has yet to begin, the threat of half a million people losing power doesn’t seem particularly reliable. This is the third time parts of the Texas grid have gone offline since the freeze in February 2021 left millions without power and hundreds dead.
It happened one more time last April and again in June, after which Abbott said, “Bottom line is that everything that needed to be done was done to fix the power grid in Texas.”
One person who was not convinced by Abbott’s pledge– then, or now – is Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Beto O’Rourke. O’Rourke tweeted this post on Friday.
Abbott had ERCOT hold this until after 5 on a Friday because he wants to bury it.
He doesn't want Texans to know that he STILL can’t keep the power running in the energy capital of the world.
When I’m governor, we’ll fix the grid, lower energy bills and put people over profits. https://t.co/ysoQdV5qfB
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) May 13, 2022
The power shortage caused a surge in wholesale electric prices. According to the Houston Chronicle, ERCOT showed prices reached as high as $5000 per megawatt-hour. That’s over half of the $9000 per megawatt-hour price seen by some customers during the winter storm and almost 170 times more than the average $30.
Business Insider reported that Army veteran Scott Willoughby told The New York Times that “There’s nothing I can do about it, but it’s broken me.” Willoughby’s bill, for just a few days of power usage – was $16,752.
In December 2021, a lawsuit was filed in a District Court against ERCOT and three dozen defendants. In the suit, Austin-based attorney Mary-Ellen King, on behalf of 131 plaintiffs states:
“The petition alleges that ERCOT and the other 36 defendants were at fault for an electrical energy failure that occurred within the State of Texas beginning on February 15, 2021 and continuing throughout the following week.”
An independent monitor for the Public Utility Commission of Texas found that ERCOT overcharged customers $16 billion for energy that was “not needed” or “produced.” They sent a letter to the PUC, recommending that ERCOT reverse the charges.
ERCOT declined to do so, despite Abbott pledging to make the overcharges an “emergency item” at the start of the 87th legislative session.
He sent a statement to the state’s House and Senate requesting “legislation relating to the correction of any billing errors by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), including any inaccurate excessive charges and any issues regarding ancillary service prices.”