...equipment to catch fire, substations to blow and power lines to go down.
If the grid had gone totally offline, the physical damage to power infrastructure from overwhelming the grid could have taken months to repair, said Bernadette Johnson, senior vice president of power and renewables at Enverus, an oil and gas software and information company headquartered in Austin.
“As chaotic as it was, the whole grid could’ve been in blackout,” she said. “ERCOT is getting a lot of heat, but the fact that it wasn’t worse is because of those grid operators.”
ERCOT has three emergency procedures to balance the equation between supply and demand. Grid operators can call on other grids for help---Texas’ grid has limited connections to the eastern U.S. and Mexico. But in this week’s storm, so much power went offline that other grids couldn’t close the gap, in part because those grids were being stressed by the same storm.
Next, ERCOT can try to reduce demand by interrupting power to large industrial customers that have previously agreed to have power cut during an emergency.
If that doesn’t work---and it didn’t in this case---ERCOT has a last resort option: ordering transmission companies to reduce demand on the system with rotating outages for customers.
That’s what happened in the early hours of Feb. 15.
Usually, those outages are limited to less than 45 minutes. But this time, the outages lasted days. That’s likely because after ERCOT ordered companies to stop providing power to customers, even more power generation tripped offline, and it was not able to “roll” the outages effectively, Johnson explained.
The amount of power ERCOT needed utilities to cut back in order to prevent complete blackout was so great that...