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Energy & Environment
Central Texas experienced historic winter weather the week of Feb. 14, with a stretch of days below freezing. Sleet followed snow followed freezing rain, leading to a breakdown of the electric grid and widespread power outages. Water reservoirs were depleted and frozen pipes burst, leaving some without service for days.

February's Blackouts Cost Texas Billions. Austin Energy Might Have Earned A Profit.

powerlines_JR_021821
Julia Reihs
/
KUT
Ice covers power lines in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Austin during last month's winter storm.

Austin’s municipally owned utility estimates it earned $54 million by selling excess power during February’s winter storm.

As the cold gripped Texas, forcing many power plants offline, electric generation facilities that Austin Energy owns were mostly unaffected, according to a filing with the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board on Monday.

“Combined with ERCOT-mandated [blackouts], this resulted in Austin Energy generation output exceeding its customer’s usage,” the utility wrote in its filing. Of course, customer usage was so low because more than 40% of Austin Energy's customers were in the dark. Still, the utility was then able to sell the excess power it generated to other parts of the state at a time when wholesale power prices were far higher than usual.

Austin Energy warned, however, that it doesn’t know for sure how much the storm will cost it. For instance, the state’s Public Utility Commission could retroactively lower the price of power during the blackouts, though the agency declined to do so last week.

“Significant uncertainty in the overall outcome remains, and Austin Energy estimates that final net revenue results could be realized in a range between positive $104 million to negative $16 million,” Austin Energy said in its filing.

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