AUSTIN, Texas - Power lines that had been cold and dead for the past several days were re-energizing Thursday after ERCOT grid managers released local utilities from a Monday order to shed power.
Oncor was one of the first to announce it was no longer doing rotating outages. However, the ramp-up was not immediate and ERCOT remained on high alert to protect the grid according to CEO Bill Magness.
"We want to be sure we are clear of the weather today, the weather tomorrow morning peak before we move out of it too quickly. So it is a conservative decision, but one I think given the still fluid nature of the weather and making sure we have the generation we need and keep it on we feel like it’s prudent to remain in that status," said Magness.
Debbi Williams, who lives in Leander, is among those who woke up Thursday and with a flip of a wall switch had power. But illumination didn't remove doubt.
"I was skeptical at first. I wasn't sure it was really going to stay on, I kept watching the clock. Watching the clock, 7:00, 8:00, 9:00 ... waiting, waiting, for it to go out, and when it got to 11:00 and it didn't go out at all I was excited," said Williams.
While utility meters went back on for some, others are still out of power and a big reason for that is tree limbs that have fallen and taken out power lines. Bluebonnet Electrical Co-op posted pictures of a crew replacing a utility pole near Bastrop Thursday morning. The scene helps explain a tracking map posted by poweroutage.us. The map Thursday afternoon showed a large percentage of outages remain in the central and southwest parts of Texas when compared to urban centers.
"I think we've heard from some parts of Central Texas that may be more severe in Central Texas than in other parts of the state, you can imagine oak trees, live oak trees that still have a lot of leaves on them, you put ice on them, and we’ve seen lots of pictures of that. If those fall on lines crews have to go out and fix those lines," said ERCOT System Operations Director Dan Woodfin.
ERCOT also warns the crisis is not over. If people go overboard, using too much electricity, Thursday night and Friday morning could result in a new round of rotating outages being ordered.
"We'd expect those, any outages like that to be limited and we'd be able to rotate them as opposed to being more extended outages. If they are required, we are certainly going to try to avoid that," said Woodfin.
Large industrial companies are being eased back onto the grid so it would slip out of balance. Looking back at when the crisis began, Magness explained how close the grid came to collapsing Monday.
ERCOT officials may be cautiously optimistic now but it was much different Monday. Magness during the briefing was asked how close the grid actually came to collapse.
"When our frequency went to a level, if our operators had not acted very rapidly, to change the situation and arrest it, it could have very quickly changed, the reason it can be seconds or minutes, was that what was driving this early Monday morning, Sunday night, was seeing, starting around 11:00 or midnight, generation units coming off, and then more coming off at rapid succession, as the storm blew through, so one of the reasons that operators to act to arrest the frequency is, if they say, well let’s wait another minute, see what happens; what happens in that next minute, it might be three big units come off and then you're sunk. So we were at a level of frequency which was what needed to be addressed immediately and that’s what the operators did, so I think, if we hadn’t taken action, it wouldn’t have been we would have waited a few days and saw what happened, it was second and minutes, given the amount of generation that was coming off the system at the same time the demand was still going up significantly," said Magness.