- The Texas electric grid "expects to come out of emergency conditions later this morning," the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) said Friday, having made significant progress in restoring power. About 34,000 MW of generation remain offline due to severe weather.
- At the height of the grid's collapse on Tuesday morning, about 4 million customers in Texas were without power. According to poweroutage.us, that number was around 187,000 as of Friday at 7:30 a.m. ET.
- ERCOT officials say utilities can now restore power to all customers, and those still offline fall into three categories: customers in areas with ice storm damage to the distribution system; areas which need to be restored manually; and large industrial facilities that are voluntarily offline.
Policy fallout from the Texas grid failure will likely continue for some time, but ERCOT officials say almost all customers should see their power restored now.
In order to bring customers back online, the Texas grid needed more generation in order to maintain system frequency. That began happening Wednesday, and by Thursday morning "we were able to allow the transmission owners to bring back any of the demand," ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness said during a call with reporters.
System restoration has reached a point "where we are allowing transmission owners to bring back any load they can related to this load shed event,” said ERCOT Senior Director of System Operations Dan Woodfin.
"We're not out of the woods yet," Magness said. "We're still in very cold conditions, still seeing much higher than normal winter demand. But today we were able to get over our morning peak without taking additional actions."
The grid operator said Friday morning it had been able to balance generation and load on the electric system without issuing any additional outages throughout the previous day.
Despite progress, ERCOT officials say the system remains unstable and the outlook uncertain.
"We may have to ask for [additional] outages, but if we do, we believe they'll be at the level where they could be rotating outages, not the larger numbers we faced earlier this week," said Magness.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation earlier this week said they will look at outages in the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) and Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), along with ERCOT.
SPP canceled its own energy emergency alert on Thursday, but said that "due to continuing high loads and other implications of severe cold weather, it remains in a period of conservative operations" until Saturday. MISO declared a similar approach throughout its footprint, and has suspended transmission and generation maintenance on its system in affected areas.
ERCOT officials defended their decisions related to the blackout, saying the worst case scenario — where the entire grid failed, equipment had to be restarted manually and outages lasted an indeterminate amount of time — was averted by the widespread blackout.
"The actions we took ... to actually institute rotating outages in a controlled way as generators tripped offline, preserved the integrity of the system as a whole," said Woodfin.
Storm damage is the largest factor still keeping customers in the dark — something the grid operator has no control over, as that responsibility falls to local distribution utilities. Even as power came back online, ERCOT continued to operate under an Energy Emergency Alert 3, which Magness said provides some authority to take actions to stabilize the grid, including not having to recall the load resources that have been deployed.
Of the 34,000 MW of generation remaining offline in ERCOT as of Friday morning, the grid operator says almost 20,000 MW is thermal generation and the rest is wind and solar.
"Given the large nature of the effort to get load restored, we want to be sure we're not moving too quickly out of emergency conditions," said Magness, of the decision to continue emergency operations. "It's a conservative decision, but one that we feel is prudent."
Utilities continue bringing customers back online, but some could remain without power until next week.
Austin Energy said Thursday evening that about 40,000 customers remain without power. Oncor Electric had approximately 27,000 customers without power on Friday morning, down from a peak of 1.3 million. Southwestern Electric Power Company said Thursday it had begun assessing damage and restoring power to 22,600 customers and warned that "restoration in heavily-damaged areas will continue into next week."