State Grid Weathered Cold Snap Despite Record Demand

All-time highs and lows


Things get frosty at 21 degrees Fahrenheit (photo by Maggie Q. Thompson)

Looking back on the frigid weather this week, the grid held up extremely well. Despite calls for conservation on Monday and Tuesday mornings and a new winter demand record, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) avoided outages due to an ample energy supply, including a new record for solar, which produced three times as much as it did during Winter Storm Uri. Though ERCOT overshot its estimate of demand by several thousand megawatts (they tend to overestimate), on Monday the grid did weather a new all-time winter peak for demand, with Winter Storm Elliott in December 2022 coming in second. The next day during Tuesday's peak, wind produced around a third of the energy needed to meet demand. As UT-Austin energy researcher Joshua Rhodes pointed out on X, the ERCOT grid is 40% carbon-free as of 2024.


image via Getty Images

Also locally Austin officials did a better job of communicating to the public, holding multiple press conferences explaining how to weather the cold. That outreach led to another record: Mayor Kirk Watson said in a press conference Tuesday that 600 people, the highest number ever, sought overnight shelter at one of the city's seven cold weather shelters. Weatherwise, there were even more records: Watson pointed to new all-time lows of 16 degrees for those dates, as well as only the third-ever wind chill warning from the National Weather Service. However, despite a boil water notice in Hays County affecting 6,000 customers and delayed starts to Austin ISD classes, Austin's daily flow was largely unaltered. EMS only responded to 30 weather-related calls from Sunday to Tuesday, compared to more than 2,937 total incidents during 2022's Winter Storm Elliott. "When you compare it to previous weather events, this has really kind of been fairly tame," said EMS Captain Darren Noak Tuesday.

“When you compare it to previous weather events, this has really kind of been fairly tame.”   – EMS Captain Darren Noak

Energy experts had predicted a more resilient response to this cold snap last week, pointing to winterization that power plants have implemented since the 2021 winter storm. There was also much less precipitation than during Elliott's ice hurricane, when buildup caused tree limbs to knock out power lines. The star of the show this year, however, has been renewable power, which held the grid steady this summer amid record heat as well.

Roads were cleared of ice completely Tuesday morning according to the Texas Department of Transportation, and temperatures will heat up to a high of around 70 on Thursday. Austinites should brace for another chilly – but milder – weekend come Friday, with the National Weather Service currently predicting lows in the 20s on Saturday and rain chances early next week.

Got something to say on the subject? Send a letter to the editor.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More by Lina Fisher
Austin Pets Alive! Workers File to Become Largest Animal Shelter Union in the U.S.
Austin Pets Alive! Workers File to Become Largest Animal Shelter Union in the U.S.
Working conditions "are the living conditions of the animals”

April 12, 2024

Legislators, NAACP, and Professors Condemn UT’s Mass Layoffs
Legislators, NAACP, and Professors Condemn UT’s Mass Layoffs
At least 66 people have lost their jobs, and counting

April 11, 2024

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

ERCOT, Winter Storm Uri, Winter Storm Elliot, Joshua Rhodes, National Weather Service, Weather

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle