Texas’ power grid, generation system underprepared for winter storm Uri

Maeve Reiter, Social Media Editor

Winter storm Uri hit Texas on February 14th, bringing snow and wind chills in the negatives. It also brought significant power outages that spread across the entire state and persisted for days, leaving millions of people without electricity or heat.

The power outages were mainly caused by entire power grid failures. An article from the New York Times says cold weather forced Texas citizens to use too much power with heaters and lights, and the grids became overloaded. Ice and snow knocked down power lines and affected power plants, which pushed the grids over the edge. 

Texas was simply unprepared for the storm. The power plants that were meant for running air conditioning on hot days were caught unprepared for freezing temperatures and snow.

Additionally, the Texas power system is currently not connected to the rest of the United States’ power, according to The Washington Post. This meant that power was not able to be transferred from other states to help Texas. The backup power system in Texas was not strong enough on its own, and without the rest of the country’s help with power, nothing could be done.

Power company workers fix a downed power line in Texas on February 17, 2021. Massive power outages across the state left millions without power for days. (Jonathan Cutrer/CC BY-NC 2.0)

For the portion of people that maintained power, another problem rose altogether. CNN reports that those who maintained power’s electric bills rose in very high amounts. This is because part of the Texas energy market is set up so that consumers can choose to not pay a fixed rate, and it is instead set up by supply and demand. 

When the demand for electricity went up during and after the storm, the prices rose in increasing amounts. Normally at a few cents per kilowatt-hour, the price went to nine dollars per kilowatt-hour, which is the legal maximum for electricity. Since the winter storm lasted so long, this went on for days, creating bills upwards of five thousand dollars for those lucky enough to still have electricity.

While some Texans pay a provider for a cheaper price, the provider is still paying the maximum market price and those who use the service will eventually have to pay increased rates to aid the company as well. 

The failure of the Texas power grid is now leading to many discussions about how to solve failing power grids, especially with growing climate change problems, according to the New York Times. While the country may gradually get warmer because of climate change, paradoxical natural disasters like this will continue to happen. 

NPR found that bills are in the works to make Texas take climate change into account while planning for different operations across the state. Reframing and reforming the power grid is already in motion, and with these bills, Texas could be required to weatherize power stations, preparing for storms in the future and protecting citizens’ money and electricity.