Texas Senate To Investigate Rolling Blackouts

AUSTIN (AP) – State electricity managers had plenty of notice that an arctic cold front was headed for Texas and planned ahead for it, but power generators failed to provide electricity once the storm hit, officials said Tuesday.

Trip Doggett, the CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, said his agency asked generators for extra power ahead of the frigid weather that hit Texas on Feb. 2. But once the storm hit, 82 out of 550 generating systems either shut down or unexpectedly failed to start because they couldn’t handle the cold weather.

“At 10 p.m. the night before, we had committed generation . that was over 60,000 megawatts. If all of that generation had kept running we would have had enough,” Doggett told a packed Senate chamber. “We had more than 8,000 megawatts of generation that either dropped offline or was unable to start.”

Doggett said demand peaked at 57,282 megawatts, but the grid was unable to provide that much. His agency, commonly known as ERCOT, then told utilities to start rolling black outs across the state at 5:43 a.m. Hundreds of thousands of Texans lost power throughout the day because of the rolling power outages.

Doggett testified along with other state officials in front of the state Senate’s Business and Commerce Committee and the Natural Resources Committee. Lawmakers want an explanation for why utilities failed to provide power during the coldest day of the year.

Barry Smitherman, the chairman of the Public Utilities Commission, said the failure was due largely to power plants being unprepared for cold weather. Texas power plants are designed to provide power during hot summers, not cold winters.

Part of the problem is that Texas weatherization regulations for power plants don’t focus on cold weather, Smitherman said. Several brand new power plants experienced cold weather for the first time and key equipment froze. Luminant, a generation company, lost three coal-fired power plants, he added.

“The experience of the operators was non-existent, they didn’t know that parts of those plants were vulnerable,” Smitherman said.

Once the power outages started, the situation was made worse when power was cut to natural gas facilities that fueled power plants, he added.

“When the wires and poles companies were initiating the rolling black outs, they were inadvertently blacking out the natural gas facilities,” Smitherman said. “We need to know exactly where these facilities are and prevent blacking them out.”

Some electrical generators had contracts that allowed natural gas companies to divert gas to homes and away from plants as needed, he added.

Senators planned to hear testimony from power companies later Tuesday. Texas has largely deregulated the electric power industry and several senators questioned whether state regulators needed more power.

On Monday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ordered a formal inquiry as well. While the commission has little direct authority over ERCOT because the grid does not connect to other states, federal regulators do have an obligation that all Americans have reliable electricity.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • john

    charge them to do business and give the people of Texas back the 11 billion they overcharged

  • http://fortworthinsight.com/news/texas-senate-to-investigate-rolling-blackouts/ Texas Senate To Investigate Rolling Blackouts « Fort Worth News Feeds

    […] Texas Senate To Investigate Rolling Blackouts Two Senate committees will hold joint hearings into why power plants shut down unexpectedly earlier this month. Go to News Source […]

  • Joe

    Enron, part two. Now we get to listen to this as an excuse to overcharge us. Peak hours.. lol!

  • usmcgrizz

    Better get used to these winters and stop listening to algore and obama.

    • WakeupWhitePeople

      lol It was a week of winter…compared to 3 months its usually supposed to be winter & you STILL don’t see anything wrong with that. It’s still mid-Feb & this week is summer weather. Some people are still so naive.

    • smartypants

      The immediate result of climate change is hotter summers, harsher winters, stronger storms, prolonged droughts, etc.These immediate effects are the result of hotter overall average temperatures which over the course of a century or so melt glaciers, ice caps and arctic ice which add colder fresh water to the oceans disrupting the natural cycle of currents that bring cold water to the surface to be reheated and oxygenated. Without such a cycle, various catastrophic biological and temperate events occur bringing a period tremendously chaotic events followed by cooling and eventually an ice age. Read a book and quit talking out of your a$$!

      • WakeupWhitePeople

        ^Well said sir…finally someone else with a brain has replied to these posts.

      • Stephan

        phhh. CO2 is a result of your very own breath. Guess what? The planet loves to absorb CO2. Plants, the oceans, the ionosphere. The more CO2 there is, the more plants flourish for instance. They in turn produce O2, yet another useful molecule you might have heard of called Oxygen. Ying Yang folks. Chinese figured that out thousands of years ago. The planet will seek balance at any cost. Weather changes on it’s own. Live in hysteria if you so wish. Live in the dark ages of your own pathetic narcissism.

  • Schrödinger

    The party line I’ve heard so far is that “pipes burst” at the backup plants, due to the extreme cold. Burst pipes at something like 6 plants, really? Something’s rotten here, folks…

  • richardw

    more socialism..take from those that work hard.give to needy.surcharges are a form of socialism.trauma centers??

  • Reggie

    Make them pay for all the Heaters that shorted out when the power blinked. I know mine was fried. 1 COLD day and $1,500 later….

  • Sauce


    • rob

      no one?your right about education tho.But that’s another subject.

  • PWP

    As a Maintenance Supervisor at an 880 MW power plant I can speak from experience. Most plants in Texas are not built to withstand the low temps we experienced the last couple of weeks. No amount of government regulation is going to change that. FERC and NERC are a waste of time and money.

  • Greg Hall

    How about everybody drop the political bull this isn’t a partisan dicsussion. It affects everyone. The salient point is that it is really suspicious why so many plants had problems is it poor design, negligance or what. That is the question. Unforutnately most situations like this fall under the old saw.

    Never attribute to malicous anything that can be adequately explained by stupidity.

    The point is whether that stupidity was ignorance or someone trying to cut corners to save a few dollars and in turn cost the rest of the state both personal and business intersts millions.

  • WakeupWhitePeople

    Why does this always have to turn into something political or some agenda??
    Can’t it just be that they weren’t prepared for this sudden cold snap?

    Jesus people.

    • rob

      they are paid to be prepared just like you or I in our jobs.As a paramedic would you like for me to use that as an excuse when your in trouble?

  • Cole Younger

    I was in the black out ,and it didnt bother me in the slighest big dear ,so what .get over it fools

    • rob

      maybe your was just the 15 minutes and you were lucky,mine was 7 hrs and caused damage.So be careful who you calla fool,idiot.

  • rob

    they won’t do anything,they never do anything.They have all that cash stuffed in their pockets from the utility lobby so this is all show and no go,as usual.

  • rob

    My so called rolling blackout lasted 7 hrs and damaged my pool.Who is going to pay for that?Ha,not those responsible.

  • Larry Neumann

    Any company should know that you must be prepared for 10 /15 % growth (demand) to comtinue to compete and be sucessful. What we have here in Texas is a company that can be sucessful by raising product cost with no regard to their customers needs. Remimber they are the only game in town.

  • Dude Watson

    Wonder if they would like a rolling payment. Maybe my check will cash maybe it won’t. Here’s an idea ask Electricity providers in places where it’s cold all winter and see what they do to keep the power grid working?

  • yxcubed

    clean enrgy is the way to go and yes everyone has their own agenda – think ballard power and plug power non centralized generators

  • John

    It is astounding, the absolute ignorance of the general populace regarding the deregulation of the electricity market in the State of Texas. The whole system was established under false pretense and was bought and payed for by the electric and natural gas utilities. I would encourage anyone and everyone to take a couple of hours to research the history of the deregulation process. It probably will surprise you as to just how slick the utilities in cahoots with our legislators were. The telephone companies were the first to succeed with their deregulation which consequently DOUBLED our phone bills. The electric utilities borrowed their plan and have been even more successful at extorting money from you and I. Everytime you get a utility bill you should call your Congressman to complain and send them a copy of your bill.

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