A Holiday Freeze Nearly Blacked Out ERCOT

by | Jan 14, 2023 | Industry News

Could The Big Holiday Freeze Have Snagged ERCOT?

That big holiday freeze in December narrowly missed affecting Texas. Learn what helped keep your lights on and what didn't.
This past Christmas, Texas narrowly missed a big holiday freeze. Learn what helped keep the lights on and what really didn’t help at all.

Folks in the Carolinas got something blacker than coal for Christmas: rolling blackouts. The big holiday freeze caused equipment failures, and inaccurate weather modeling led to outages. Half a million customers in the Duke Energy Carolinas service area lost power. With some exceptions, Texas electricity customers escaped a similar fate. But the close call caused some state leaders to question the recent power grid reforms. 

Crypto Miners To The Rescue

Some Texans are skeptical about the cyptocurrency miners setting up shop here. Their facilities demand a constant flow of power. However, most volunteer to shut off their power to spare the state from blackouts. And over the big holiday freeze, they did just that. 

ERCOT made this plan with crypto miners in March 2022 amid fears the miners would bleed the power grid. But over the holidays, miners saved Texas’ bacon. They returned about 1500 MW of power back to the grid. This is enough to heat more than 1.5 million small homes. That’s no small drop in the bucket for a state of 30 million people.  

Big Holiday Freeze Solutions 

So what is Texas to do? The state enacted reforms two years ago right after Winter Storm Uri. But the case with last month’s freeze is too close for comfort. 

Natural gas is the bugaboo in all of this. Failures in natural gas infrastructure caused electric outages during Winter Storm Uri. And similar failures in the recent big holiday freeze hit some homes and businesses. One neighborhood in Austin-exurb Leander went without power for nearly a week. Talk about a not-so-merry Christmas. This was not the time for customers’ electricity meters to stop running. 

Gas utility Atmos Energy issued a mea culpa afterwards. But that doesn’t erase the memory of a shivering yuletide. Now, the state is grilling Atmos for its’ actions during the big holiday freeze. Could they have warned people earlier? Could they have kept gas flowing?

The Texas Railroad Commissioner (RRC) oversees the natural gas industry. But so far, they’ve seemed unwilling to work with PUC and ERCOT to make sure Texans’ lights stay on in icy weather. RRC Chair Christi Craddick bristled at sharing the most basic real time data with ERCOT when asked by lawmakers. 

Meanwhile, the Performance Credit Mechanism (PCM) the PUC has proposed continues to draw scrutiny from lawmakers and industry insiders. This plan rewards power generators who make power during peak demand periods. The PUC thinks this will spur companies to build more power plants. However, consumer advocates find no guarantees in this set-up. Any new system will increase consumer power prices

Your Home’s Power 

Any fixes Texas puts in place will impact electric power prices. No matter how state leaders handle the macro issues of the Texas power grid, you still need a power plan for your home. Peruse the options at https://www.texaselectricityratings.com to discover the electric contract that best meets your energy needs.  

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