Austin's NPR Station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Texas Power Outages Caused By 7,000 Megawatts Going Offline

Photo by Liang Shi for KUT News
Cold weather caused ice to form on this water fountain at the University of Texas at Austin. The frigid temperatures are being blamed for rolling power outages that afflicated Texas throughout the day.

More than fifty electricity generation units stopped working overnight because of severe weather, reducing capacity by 7,000 megawatts and leading to the rolling power outages across Texas today.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) has asked utilities and transmission providers like Austin Energy to implement the rolling power outage underway now.

Update at 4:21 pm: ERCOT says the need for local utilities to implement rolling power outages has ended for now. But they made need to resume tomorrow. Here are some steps you can take to reduce your electricity consumption.

Earlier: One megawatt is about enough electricity to power 200 homes in extreme temperatures, ERCOT said in a news release.

ERCOT says it is prohibited by market rules from revealing which plants caused the lost capacity.

But Luminant, the largest power company in Texas, released a statement to KUT News saying theirs are among the generators that conked out.

As a result of extreme weather and prolonged cold, Luminant lost generating capacity overnight at a few of its power generating units in Texas. We are working with ERCOT, which is also experiencing other systematic challenges. Luminant is currently doing everything it can to restore operations as safely and quickly as possible. The company is also actively working with ERCOT and other state agencies to manage this situation.

The second largest power generator in Texas, NRG, told the Dallas Morning News that none of its generators was affected.

The Associated Press is quoting Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on a possible cause of the lost capacity.

Burst water pipes at two coal-fired powerplants forced them to shut down, triggering rolling power cutsacross the state, the lieutenant governor said Wednesday. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said this is something that "should not happen."  Dewhurst said he was told that water pipes at two plants, Oak Grove and Sand Hill, forced them to cut electricity production. Natural gas power plants that should have provided back up had difficulty starting due to low pressure in the supply lines, also caused by the cold weather. The lieutenant governor said the demand placed on the Texas grid was nowhere near peak capacity. He said he was frustrated by the situation. The statewide electricity authority ordered cities across the state to start rolling power outages to cope with the crisis. 

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @KUTnathan.
Related Content