Austinites concerned about power grid buying backup generators

After February’s winter storm left millions without power statewide and exposed flaws in the power grid, some Texans may be concerned about another strain on the system heading into summer.

Earlier this week, Austin hit triple digits for the first time this year, and on Monday, ERCOT issued a conservation notice through Friday between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Despite that notice, Gov. Greg Abbott and other lawmakers voiced confidence in the state’s power grid on Wednesday.

"I can tell you for the fact that as we’re sitting here today the electric grid in Texas is better today than it’s ever been," said Gov. Abbott. "They got the repairs done now before the real heat of summer hits, and they should be prepared to go into the summer fully capable of meeting demands."

Lawmakers that FOX 7 spoke to on Wednesday stressed that the notice wasn’t an emergency notice but more of preventative and temporary action.

"We’re just in a transition period and it was just unfortunate that we had a number of equipment that went into maintenance this week," said state Rep. Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound).


However, some Texans don’t appear to be taking chances. At some local hardware shops that FOX 7 spoke with Wednesday, they are seeing an increased demand for generators.

Generator manufacturer Briggs & Stratton shared a similar sentiment. The company has seen a 200% increase in demand for generators nationwide. A spokesperson said that Texas has played a large role in that, in part due to the winter storm.

"Texans know it’s going to be hot in the summer so they’re preemptively seeing that this is going to be a problem for them if something were to happen again," said Becky Fellows, a representative for Briggs & Stratton. "I think homeowners are much more aware."

For homeowners wanting to purchase a backup generator, Fellows said essentially there are two options: a permanent standby generator or a portable generator.


Generally, a 10-20 kW standby generator can be used to power a home, while portable generators are about 8-10 kW and are usually used for camping trips and similar situations. However, they could power some basic essentials.

Fellows said planning ahead is the key to being prepared to meet each household’s needs. "A 10 kW could power a smaller home or select circuits, so if you only wanted your lights on and your electric oven to work, then that could be done with one of the smaller units," she said. "Where if you have a larger home or you want your whole home powered, a larger unit might be the right solution for you."

Though the governor signed legislation to reform the state’s power grid, those bills won’t start being implemented until summer is over. According to the governor, one change was immediate. "That was greater communication by ERCOT to let people know what was going on," he said. "This was an example of that greater communication."

However, with a growing population, lawmakers do say it’s a work in progress.

"There’s no doubt with the amount of people moving to the state of Texas we’re going to need more capacity," said state Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Houston).