Texas Power Outage Crisis

In the early morning hours of Feb. 15, 2021, electric power generation rapidly began to drop offline in Texas as a winter storm moved across the state. Record-low temperatures, forcing power plants to trip, combined with a shortage of natural gas fuel for those plants caused the state’s grid operator to order outages. The outages extended from hours to days, leaving more than 4.8 million homes and businesses without power. The crisis caused the deaths of hundreds across the state. 

Texas largely relies on natural gas for power. It wasn’t ready for the extreme cold.

Texas largely relies on natural gas — especially during times of high demand — to power the state. Experts say natural gas infrastructure, from pumping it out of the ground to the plants in city centers, was unprepared for the plunging temperatures brought by the winter storm. (Texas Tribune, Feb. 16, 2021)

Texas leaders failed to heed warnings that left the state’s power grid vulnerable to winter extremes, experts say

Texas officials knew winter storms could leave the state’s power grid vulnerable, but they left the choice to prepare for harsh weather up to the power companies — many of which opted against the costly upgrades. That, plus a deregulated energy market largely isolated from the rest of the country’s power grid, left the state alone to deal with the crisis, experts said. (Texas Tribune, Feb. 17, 2021)

Texas was “seconds and minutes” away from catastrophic monthslong blackouts, officials say

Officials with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas said that grid operators implemented blackouts to avoid a catastrophic failure that could have left Texans in the dark for months. (Texas Tribune, Feb. 18, 2021)

Oil and gas interests left to “self-regulate” in aftermath of winter storm as Texas politicians pile on to ERCOT

Politically powerful natural gas production companies appear to have so far escaped the wrath of the governor and the Legislature in the aftermath of the Texas power outages. (Texas Tribune, March 5, 2021)

Paperwork failures worsened Texas blackouts, sparking mid-storm scramble to restore critical fuel supply

Utilities cut electricity to natural gas facilities at the very moment that electric power plants most needed fuel. The mid-storm scramble to fix the problem exposed a regulatory blind spot. (Texas Tribune, March 18, 2021)

When the power went out, Texas oil and gas regulators rushed to defend the industry’s image

Members of the Texas Railroad Commission were quick to blame renewable energy for power outages across the state. All sources of energy struggled to produce power during the storm. (Texas Tribune, April 5, 2021)

Texas regulators want to prepare the state’s electricity grid for extreme weather. But that’s a moving target in a warming world.

The state plans to use past weather data to craft rules for power plant upgrades. Scientists warn that the accelerating effects of climate change make relying on old data alone insufficient. (Texas Tribune, Aug. 16, 2021)

Oil industry helped handpick members of Texas advisory group for electric grid reliability, emails show

Oil and gas industry groups provided a list of names to the Railroad Commission for appointment to a council formed in response to the February power crisis. All four of the industry’s top choices were selected. (Texas Tribune, Oct. 21, 2021)