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2021 Texas power crisis

Ongoing power outages in Texas

Top 6 2021 Texas power crisis related articles

2021 Texas power crisis
LocationTexas
TypeStatewide power outages, food/water shortages
CauseMultiple severe winter storms

The 2021 Texas power crisis is an ongoing crisis in the state of Texas in the United States involving mass power outages, water and food shortages, and dangerous weather conditions.[1] The crisis was the result of several severe winter storms sweeping across the United States on February 10-11[2] and 13-17.[3] More than 3.6 million people were without power,[4][5] some for several days. The cause of the power outages was initially blamed on frozen wind turbines by some government officials,[6] including Texas governor Greg Abbott,[7] but frozen natural gaslines were likely the main cause.[8] The events caused many experts to call into question the state's preparedness for such a storm.[9][10]

2021 Texas power crisis YouTube videos

Background

In mid-February, 2021, a series of severe winter storms swept across the US. This outbreak was due to the jet stream dipping particularly low into the US, all the way down from Washington to Texas, and going back north along the East Coast, allowing a polar vortex to bring very cold air across the country and spawning multiple storm along the jet stream as a result.[11] This weather phenomenon resulted in record low temperatures throughout Texas, with temperatures in Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio dropping below that in Anchorage, Alaska.[12]

On February 10, a winter storm formed north of the Gulf coast, dropping significant amounts of sleet and ice on many states in the Deep South and the Ohio Valley, including Texas, Georgia, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, and states on the East Coast.[13] A second storm developed off the Pacific Northwest on February 13 and began to gradually develop into an organized storm as it tracked southward Texas. It grew even more organized as it turned toward the northeast US before splitting in half—one half continued into Quebec and the other moving out over the Atlantic Ocean.[14] This storm, in addition to various other storms in the past 2 weeks, resulted in over 75% of the Contiguous US being covered in snow.[15] This storm was directly responsible for nearly 10 million people losing power, 5 million in the US and 4.7 million in Mexico.[16] In addition, at least 49 people lost their lives in total[17] and a tornado outbreak from the storm spanned Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina resulted in several structures and trees being damaged or destroyed, and the tornado in Brunswick damaged dozens of homes and killed at least three people.[18]

2021 Texas power crisis Background articles: 24

Impact

As of February 17, at least 21 people died from causes related to the winter storm.[19]

Power outages

Satellite image of Houston, Texas on February 7 (left) before the storm and on Feb 16 (right) after the storm.[20] The dark patches in the latter image depict areas left without electricity.

A combination of natural gas pipelines bursting from the extreme cold and ice accumulating on power lines and wind turbines resulted in mass power outages across significant portions of Texas and surrounding states.[21] In addition to equipment problems, demand for electricity in Texas hit a record 69,150 megawatts (MW) on February 14—3,200 MW higher than the previous record set in January 2018.[22] The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) initiated rotating outages at 1:25am on February 15.[23] The rotating outages prevented electricity demand from overwhelming the grid, a scenario which could have caused equipment to catch fire and power lines to go down, potentially resulting in a much more severe blackout.[24]

At the peak, over 4 million people in Texas were without power,[25] some for more than 3 days.[26]

During the period of outages, wholesale electric prices went to as high as $9,000/megawatt-hour, compared to a more typical $50/MWh. Customers with pricing plans based on wholesale prices who had power will face large bills.[27]

Food and water shortages

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Amateur video footage of rows of empty shelves in a Texas Wal-Mart grocery

Water service was disrupted for more than 12 million people due to pipes freezing and bursting.[28] More than 200,000 people in Texas live in areas where water systems were completely non-operational.[28] On February 17, residents of Austin were asked not to drip their faucets despite the risk of pipes freezing as the demand for water in the city was more than 2.5 times the amount supplied on the previous day.[29] The city had lost more than 325 million gallons of water due to burst pipes by February 18, according to Austin Water Director Greg Meszaros.[30] Nearly 12 million people were advised to boil their tap water before consumption due to blackouts at water treatment facilities.[31]

Due to the inclement weather conditions and extensive power outages, most stores statewide could not keep up with the increased demand for food and other grocery items. Many grocery stores were forced to close due to lack of power and, of the ones that remained open, completely ran out of many basic items like bread, milk, and eggs.[32] Officials also warned that the shortages could be long term, stating that 60% of the region's grapefruit crop and 100% of the orange crop were lost due to the weather.[33]

Carbon monoxide poisoning

The combination of below freezing temperatures with no power for heat led people to undertake dangerous ways of heating their homes. Deaths attributed to the storm include cases of carbon monoxide poisoning from people running their cars or generators indoors for heating.[19] At least 300 cases of carbon monoxide poisoning have been reported.[34]

2021 Texas power crisis Impact articles: 6

Causes

The winter storm caused record low temperatures in Texas of -2°F on February 16, the coldest in 72 years.[35] Power equipment in Texas was not winterized, leaving it vulnerable to extended periods of cold weather.[36][37] Texas Governor Greg Abbott and some other politicians initially blamed renewable energy sources for the power outages, citing frozen wind turbines as an example of their unreliability.[38] However, renewable energy accounts for only 23% of Texas power output;[39] moreover, equipment for other energy sources such as natural gas pipelines bursting from the cold were more responsible.[38] Viral images of a helicopter de-icing a Texas wind turbine were found to actually be an image from Switzerland taken in 2015.[39] Governor Abbott later acknowledged that every source of power, not just renewable ones, had failed.[38]

In 2011, Texas had faced similar power outages due to frozen power equipment, after which the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission reported that more winterizing of power infrastructure was necessary.[37] ERCOT said that some generators since then implemented new winter "best practices," but these were on a voluntary basis and mandatory regulation had not been established.[37]

Overview of "Federal Energy Regulatory Commission" article

Government response

State

Governor Abbot issued a disaster declaration on February 12, whereby he mobilized various departments including the Texas Military Department for snow clearance and assistance to stranded motorists.[40] As the situation worsened, Governor Abbott requested a Federal Emergency Declaration on February 13,[41] which President Biden approved on February 14.[42]

In an effort to alleviate the energy shortage, Governor Abbott ordered natural gas producers not to export gas out of state and to sell it within Texas instead.[43]

Federal

On February 14, President Biden declared that an emergency exists in the State of Texas, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide emergency assistance throughout Texas.[42] FEMA has sent 60 generators as well as water and blankets to the state.[44]

2021 Texas power crisis Government response articles: 3

Major non-governmental responses

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez organized a fundraiser to provide food, water, and shelter to affected Texans, raising $2 million in its first day.[45]

Overview of "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez" article

Investigations

On August 16, 2011, a 357 page report was released after the February 2011 power outage in Texas.[46]

On February 16, 2021, Governor Greg Abbott declared that ERCOT reform is an emergency priority for the state legislature, and there will be an investigation of the power outage to determine long-term solutions.[47]

2021 Texas power crisis Investigations articles: 2

See also

Energy Entities

References

  1. ^ CNN, Travis Caldwell, Keith Allen and Eric Levenson. "The Texas power grid is improving. But days of outages have caused heat, water and food shortages". CNN. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  2. ^ Rice, Doyle. "Winter storm will bring ice, snow to millions from Texas to New Jersey". USA TODAY. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  3. ^ Irfan, Umair (February 18, 2021). "Scientists are divided over whether climate change is fueling extreme cold events". Vox. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  4. ^ Wright, Will; Robertson, Campbell (February 17, 2021). "Burst Pipes and Power Outages in Battered Texas". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  5. ^ "How Many Millions Are Without Power in Texas?". Time. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  6. ^ Aronoff, Kate; Pareene, Alex; Pareene, Alex; Eldridge, Taylor Elizabeth; Eldridge, Taylor Elizabeth; Shephard, Alex; Shephard, Alex; Shiner, Meredith; Shiner, Meredith (February 16, 2021). "Conservatives Are Seriously Accusing Wind Turbines of Killing People in the Texas Blackouts". The New Republic. ISSN 0028-6583. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  7. ^ Rouan, Rick. "Fact check: Frozen wind turbines don't deserve all the blame for Texas blackouts". USA TODAY. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  8. ^ Searcey, Dionne (February 17, 2021). "No, Wind Farms Aren't the Main Cause of the Texas Blackouts". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  9. ^ Calma, Justine (February 17, 2021). "Texas has work to do to avoid another energy crisis". The Verge. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  10. ^ Blackmon, David. "Texas Must Fix Its Chronic Power Grid Resiliency Issues Or Risk Becoming Another California". Forbes. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  11. ^ "Why is it so cold? How the polar vortex brings record low temperatures and winter storms". www.usatoday.com. Retrieved February 19, 2021.
  12. ^ "A Full List of All The Record Cold Texas Temperatures". Bay News 9. February 17, 2021. Archived from the original on February 16, 2021.
  13. ^ Rice, Doyle. "Winter storm will bring ice, snow to millions from Texas to New Jersey". USA TODAY. Retrieved February 19, 2021.
  14. ^ Service, NOAA's National Weather. "WPC Surface Analysis Archive". www.wpc.ncep.noaa.gov. Retrieved February 19, 2021.
  15. ^ Findell, Talal Ansari and Elizabeth (February 17, 2021). "Deadly Winter Storm Creates Havoc Across the U.S." Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved February 19, 2021.
  16. ^ "5 Million Americans Have Lost Power After a Devastating Winter Storm". Time. Retrieved February 19, 2021.
  17. ^ "At least 49 people dead from extreme winter weather". ABC Columbia. February 19, 2021. Retrieved February 19, 2021.
  18. ^ WRAL (February 16, 2021). "EF-3 tornado kills 3, causes extensive damage in Brunswick County :". WRAL.com. Retrieved February 19, 2021.
  19. ^ a b "Texas weather: Deaths mount as winter storm leaves millions without power". BBC News. February 17, 2021. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  20. ^ "Extreme Winter Weather Causes U.S. Blackouts". earthobservatory.nasa.gov. February 16, 2021. Retrieved February 17, 2021.
  21. ^ Gowen, Annie; Freedman, Andrew; Craig, TIm; Nirappil, Fenit (February 16, 2021). "Dangerous Arctic chill leaves more than a dozen dead, widespread power outages across the southern U.S.". Washington Post. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  22. ^ Goard, Alyssa (February 14, 2021). "Texas' power grid set a new winter peak demand record Sunday evening". Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  23. ^ "ERCOT calls for rotating outages as extreme winter weather forces generating units offline". ercot.com. February 15, 2021. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  24. ^ Douglas, Erin (February 18, 2021). "Texas was "seconds and minutes" away from catastrophic monthslong blackouts, officials say". Texas Tribune. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  25. ^ Stelloh, Tim; Suliman, Adela; Chirbas, Kurt; Sheeley, Colin (February 16, 2021). "Millions in Texas without power as deadly storm brings snow, freezing weather". NBC News. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  26. ^ Neuman, Scott (February 18, 2021). "'It's Life And Death': Texans Still Without Power As Nation Faces More Winter Storms". NPR. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  27. ^ Miranda, Leticia (February 19, 2021). "As Texas deep freeze subsides, some households now face electricity bills as high as $10,000". NBC News. Retrieved February 19, 2021.
  28. ^ a b "Texas contending with water nightmare on top of power crisis". Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  29. ^ "Austin Water asks customers to not drip faucets amid water shortage". kvue.com. Retrieved February 19, 2021.
  30. ^ CNN, Travis Caldwell. "Nearly half of Texans remain under boil-water advisories as water scarcity and freezing temperatures continue". CNN. Retrieved February 19, 2021.
  31. ^ "Texas weather: Residents told to boil tap water amid power blackouts". BBC News. February 19, 2021. Retrieved February 19, 2021.
  32. ^ Aguilar, Duncan Agnew and Julián (February 18, 2021). "Texans running out of food as weather crisis disrupts supply chain". The Texas Tribune. Retrieved February 19, 2021.
  33. ^ "Texas Freeze Leaves Citrus Crop in Trouble". Southeast AgNET. February 17, 2021. Retrieved February 19, 2021.
  34. ^ "Texas Officials Warn Of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning; At Least 17 Deaths Tied to Winter Storm Uri". weather.com. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  35. ^ "Hundreds of thousands remain without power as more snow is headed to Dallas-Fort Worth on heels of record cold". February 17, 2021. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  36. ^ "Why Winter Storm Uri Caused Millions of Power Outages in Texas". weather.com. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  37. ^ a b c McCullough, Erin Douglas, Kate McGee and Jolie (February 18, 2021). "Texas leaders failed to heed warnings that left the state's power grid vulnerable to winter extremes, experts say". Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  38. ^ a b c News, A. B. C. "Republicans use Texas power outages to spread false claims about green energy". Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  39. ^ a b Link, Devon. "Fact check: Meme of wind turbine being de-iced includes 2015 image from Sweden". USA TODAY. Retrieved February 19, 2021.
  40. ^ "Governor Abbott Issues Disaster Declaration, Continues To Deploy Resources As Severe Winter Weather Impacts Texas". gov.texas.gov. Retrieved February 19, 2021.
  41. ^ "Governor Abbott Provides Update On Severe Winter Weather Impacting Texas". gov.texas.gov. Retrieved February 19, 2021.
  42. ^ a b "President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Approves Texas Emergency Declaration". The White House. February 15, 2021. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  43. ^ "Governor Abbott Gives Update On State Response To Severe Winter Weather, Power Outages". gov.texas.gov. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  44. ^ Wermund, Benjamin (February 17, 2021). "FEMA sending generators, water and blankets to Texas". Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  45. ^ "US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez raises more than $2 million to help Texans recover from nightmare winter storm". khou.com. Retrieved February 20, 2021.
  46. ^ "Report on Outages and Curtailments during the Southwest Cold Weather Event of February 1-5, 2011 - Causes and Recommendations" (PDF). Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. August 2011. Archived (PDF) from the original on February 17, 2021.
  47. ^ "Governor Abbott Declares ERCOT Reform An Emergency Item". Office of the Texas Governor. February 16, 2021. Archived from the original on February 16, 2021.

Further reading