CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (KXAN) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said the Electric Reliability Council of Texas failed Texans in two important ways that led to near-statewide blackouts at the height of the historic winter storm.
Abbott was speaking in Corpus Christi while highlighting the state’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, but took questions about ERCOT as state lawmakers started hearings Thursday to investigate the reasons for the Texas blackouts.
ERCOT said the power grid came within 4 minutes, 37 seconds of a catastrophic collapse that would have meant an extended blackout lasting weeks if not longer. In that scenario, 26 million Texans would have lost power.
But, Gov. Abbott said Thursday that he’s learned over the last few days that ERCOT failed to realize the impact the winter storm could have on the power grid.
“Step one which was a failure on the part of ERCOT was not taking the winter storm serious enough,” Abbott said. “They downplayed the severity at the same time telling me and the public that they were fully prepared for it.”
Abbott then said ERCOT failed to act quickly in the early morning hours of Feb. 15, which put our entire grid at risk, and then led to prolonged outages.
“[ERCOT] had the opportunity to slowly begin to implement rolling blackouts,” Abbott said. “Instead what they did, they delayed the decision-making process about rolling blackouts until they got right to a few minutes before the entire grid crashing.
“And they did the equivalent of slamming on brakes while driving on ice and it led to a collision that not only shut down multiple thousands of megawatts but in doing so that is what led to the immediate additional shutdown of other megawatts of generation power.”
Abbott said those two mistakes put ERCOT at the forefront of blame for the state’s poor response and the shutdown of “more power generation units than ever before in Texas history.”
Testifying in the Texas Senate Business and Commerce Committee, ERCOT CEO Bill Magness said ERCOT could have done more to communicate with the public before and during the storm.
“We were solving problems, but I think we should have been talking more to people about what this was starting to look like,” Magness said.
“What we did not anticipate was losing, you know, up to 48% of the generation available on Monday night, and that that is on us,” Magness testified.
What next for the Texas electric grid?
Gov. Abbott said Texas lawmakers will work for as long as it takes this year to overhaul ERCOT and the state’s electric grid.
“This is no longer going to be a suggestion. This is going to be a mandate,” Abbott said, echoing comments he made Wednesday night. “This legislative session is not going to end until we both mandate and fully fund the winterization and I’ll add the summerization of our grid.
“We never again can allow power to go out in the state of Texas.”