Winter weather in Texas with temperatures below zero makes the electrical system strained. This means that customers are temporarily disconnected from the electricity grid according to a rolling schedule.
The past week has been particularly cold in parts of the United States when cold winds have been blowing all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. IN Houston, Texas, queues people to refill propane containers and buy firewood. The cold weather also puts a lot of pressure on the electricity grid.
On February 15, 2021, the company that handles 90 percent of Texas’ electricity supply, ERCOT, published a call for Twitter. They asked Texas residents to limit their electricity use to reduce the risk of traffic lights and other important infrastructure being temporarily without power.
To avoid extensive power outages, both residential areas and smaller businesses will be disconnected from the electricity grid for shorter periods of up to 45 minutes. This was also reported via ERCOT’s Twitter:
“We call for rotary disconnection as the extreme winter weather causes interruptions for electricity-producing units. “Network operators and electricity companies are struggling to get electricity going again,” says ERCOT’s President and CEO Bill Magness.
ERCOT calls for rotating outages as extreme winter weather forces generating units offline. “Every grid operator and every electric company is fighting to restore power right now,” said ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness. https://t.co/rKoWcBZSew
– ERCOT (@ERCOT_ISO) February 15, 2021
Similar problems can occur due to heat waves. New Technology reported in 2020 on how hundreds of thousands of users in California were temporarily disconnected to reduce efforts on the power grid. This can also happen in Texas when the air conditioning is turned on properly in homes during the summers, but the interruptions in the winter can not only be explained by increased demand.
Reduced access to natural gas
In addition to the increased electricity consumption, the availability of natural gas also plays a role.
– Natural gas is used both for electricity production and to heat homes during the winter. So natural gas supply is needed to serve the need in a way that is not needed in the summer, and then the supply of natural gas will be lower for electricity production, says Leslie Sopko, communications manager at ERCOT, to Houston Chronicle.
Leslie Sopko is supported by the State Electricity and Telecommunications Authority, which in a press release said that wind turbines can also be affected by the cold.
– This record cold not only causes customers to increase their electricity consumption to stay warm, it causes icing of our wind turbines and reduces our natural gas-powered resources, says Commissioner Arthur D’Andrea in the press release.
So far, rotary disconnection has not been needed in Sweden, but the risk that it will be needed in the future has increased. Ny Teknik recently published an article in which the risk of being disconnected from the electricity grid is presented.