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Cold weather is rolling across Texas this weekend. The grid operator says generators are ready

Control room at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. ERCOT manages the electric grid and power flow for 24 million Texans.
Julia Reihs
Control room at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. ERCOT manages the electric grid and power flow for 24 million Texans.

Freezing temperatures will sweep across much of Texas this weekend, and the state grid operator again promised power generators are ready to keep the lights on.

In a press release Thursday morning, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) announced it completed a round of generator inspections. Generators had until Dec. 1 to meet new winterization requirements. ERCOT said 10 units fell short but most corrected problems right away, and the bulk of the more than 300 generators inspected met or exceeded new winterization requirements.

“Texans can be confident the electric generation fleet and the grid are winterized and ready to provide power,” wrote Woody Rickerson, vice president of grid planning and weatherization.

ERCOT and other state leaders have projected confidence ahead of the winter.

“The worst case scenario I see this winter is that we have to use almost all of the reforms we made,” Public Utility Commission chair Peter Lake told TPR. “I do not expect any of those new measures — those mitigation measures, those reforms — to include any form of rolling blackouts.”

The grid is unlikely to be tested this weekend in the same way it was during last winter’s prolonged, severe winter storm.

“(The 2021 winter storm is) unmatched in the historical record, which for this part of the country goes back over 120 years,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Keith White. “The chances of something like what happened last winter happening again are incredibly small.”

The weekend forecast calls for a statewide cold front, but warm temperatures are expected to follow next week — and throughout the rest of the winter, due to cooler-than-normal sea surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

“We'll warm right back up in the middle of next week,” White said. “And we do still anticipate the majority of the rest of the winter to feature, on average, warmer- and drier-than-normal conditions.”

Experts doubt that the grid reforms could definitely prevent blackouts in the unlikely event of another severe winter storm. ERCOT’s own Seasonal Assessment of Resource Adequacy purposefully excluded data from the February storm, but still acknowledged the possibility of blackouts this winter.

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Dominic Anthony Walsh can be reached at Dominic@TPR.org and on Twitter at @_DominicAnthony