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Could Texans see more power outages this spring?

Published: Apr. 14, 2021 at 7:08 PM CDT
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KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) - After the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) urged Texans to conserve energy Tuesday evening, some worry the state could see a repeat of the widespread power outages that occurred during the historic winter storm in February.

“You might see more energy conservation measures,” Phil White, an energy researcher at the University of Texas at Austin, told KWTX.

It depends, he said, on how quickly thermal power generators, like natural gas and coal plants, can come back online.

On Tuesday evening — as ERCOT issued its conservation notice — about half of the state’s thermal power plants were offline because of maintenance.

ERCOT generally expects plants to shut down for maintenance in the spring ahead of the busy summer season, but it did not expect so many plants to be down, White said.

Many were shuttered as they dig out from February’s freeze.

“Just like the winter weather took our households to their limits with cracked pipes and anything else that it created, that was also happening to power plants,” White said.

White also said that, in addition to more plants than expected being offline, it was warmer on Tuesday than analysts had expected, leading to more demand on the system.

He said that warm spells in the future, while plants are still recovering from the winter storm, could create the need for additional conservation measures or even force additional outages.

However, he said that widespread outages like the ones seen in February are not likely to resurface in later months and that customers should not worry too much about high power bills.

“We’re not going to see $9,000 per megawatt-hour again this year,” White said.

“That was the ceiling price during the winter storm, and there are rules that once you have so many hours at that ceiling price, that ceiling price comes down,” he added.

The ceiling price now sits at $2,000 per megawatt-hour, he said.

On Wednesday, ERCOT again said that the state’s electricity supply was tight but did not say Texans need to conserve energy.

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