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Power outages could continue into Tuesday, last for hours as plants battle cold to get running again

One state official said the power plan was working exactly as it was supposed to to keep the grid intact.

Power outages caused by severe stress on the state’s power grid will likely continue until Tuesday and maybe even beyond that, state officials said Monday morning.

The outages will continue until enough power is being generated to meet the demand of the system, Dan Woodfin explained. Woodfin is the director of system operations for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, which coordinates the state’s power grid.

“We anticipate that we'll need to continue these controlled outages at some level for the rest of today and at least the first part of tomorrow, perhaps all day tomorrow,” he said Monday.

As temperatures continued to drop overnight Sunday into Monday, wind and “thermal” generators began to fail in the extreme cold, he said, which has led to, in some areas, outages that have lasted for hours.

“We don't know exactly why they tripped offline yet,” Woodfin said. “There’s some limited reporting that they do, but we're certainly going to be doing our normal event analysis that we do. This one will probably be bigger than our normal event analysis, but we'll certainly go through and figure out why those things have happened.”

He said ERCOT doesn’t actually initiate outages. Power companies such as Oncor in North Texas and CenterPoint in the Houston area, for instance, choose where to cut power, when, and for how long, he explained. There is no limit to how long such an outage can last.

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Those companies avoid “areas where there are hospitals or emergency responders and those kind of things,” Woodfin said. “And there's some other technical things that cause them not to use certain areas. So they're kind of bound to use those areas that don't meet one of those categories.”

Woodfin said the state’s power grid plan did not fail. 

“The plan actually has worked,” he said. “There’s just insufficient supply of generation on the grid to meet that very high demand on the grid. The plan is intended to preserve the reliability of the grid as a whole, to make sure that we don't have worse problems than these kind of outages. And so it has done exactly that and will continue to do it.”

He said ERCOT and power generation companies have worked “for the last decade” to plan for winter demand, but this event is historic. 

“This weather event is really unprecedented,” Woodfin explained. “We all who are living here know that we are seeing temperatures and wind chills and even blizzard conditions that are well beyond anything that happened within my lifetime, for sure.”