TEXAS – During an update on Thursday, officials with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) said the Texas power grid was "seconds or minutes" from catastrophic failure. ERCOT had previously not disclosed how close the state came to a much more dire situation.

Rolling outages that began Sunday night prevented that, they said. 

So what is the disaster they’re referring to? Earlier in the week ERCOT CEO Bill Magness described “catastrophic blackout” – the grid going completely dark and including the possibility that it could take months to restore.

"ERCOT’s purpose, its fundamental purpose in grid management is to be sure that we don't have a blackout,” Magness said “And a blackout is an uncontrolled situation where you see equipment breaks - very dangerous. What we're experiencing today, while it feels like a catastrophe to everybody experiencing it obviously with the cold weather and as long as it's gone on, the catastrophic blackout is a much worse event."

Why and how Texas got so close to the brink of total blackout will likely emerge in the coming weeks. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott earlier this week declared an investigation into ERCOT’s procedures an emergency item during the current legislative session.

ERCOT also on Thursday reported it is making significant progress restoring power but that numerous outages remain.

"We’re to the point in the load restoration 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 will keep working around the clock until every single customer has their power back on."

ERCOT said that customers who remain without power likely fall into one of the three following categories at this point:

  • Areas out due to ice storm damage on the distribution system
  • Areas that were taken out of service due to the energy emergency load shed that need to be restored manually (i.e., sending a crew to the location to reenergize the line)
  • Large industrial facilities that voluntarily went offline to help during this energy emergency