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Deep freeze keeps 2.8 million Texas power customers in the cold; prices remain high


Governor forbids natural gas exports

Outages concentrated along Gulf Coast

  • Author
  • Mark Watson
  • Editor
  • Rocco Canonica
  • Commodity
  • Electric Power Natural Gas

Austin, Texas — Texas had about 2.8 million electric utility customers without power due to the winter storm shutting down generation capacity around 4 pm CT Feb. 17, and real-time wholesale prices reflected that scarcity, as utilities and the grid operator struggled to restore and maintain service to customers.

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Customer outages in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas footprint made up the vast majority of that 2.8 million total, which is from the website.

During an 11 am Feb. 17 media call, ERCOT said it was continuing rotating outages to shed about 14 GW of load across the state to cope with about 46 GW of generation that was unavailable, most of it forced offline by cold weather conditions.

Of the 46 GW offline, 28 GW was thermal and 18 GW was renewable – wind and solar.

Natural gas freeze-offs were a big factor in much of the thermal generation outage, said Dan Woodfin, ERCOT senior director of system operations.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday ordered that natural gas produced in state remain in Texas until Feb. 21, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Icing on wind turbines in West Texas has also been a contributing factor, Woodfin said.

A Feb. 17 S&P Global Platts Analytics webinar presentation showed wind output near Abilene, Texas, substantially below normal, given the wind speed – in the range of 4 GW to 7.5 GW during the winter storm, when on other days, those outputs would range from 7.5 GW to as much as 18 GW.

Prices remain at $9,000/MWh

As the rotating power outages continue, ERCOT has administratively set real-time locational marginal prices at $9,000/MWh, the systemwide offer cap, in response to a Public Utility Commission of Texas order that scarcity pricing should reflect the value of lost load, which has been determined as $9,000/MWh, as long as rotating outages persist.

Real-time prices have also been high in the Southwest Power Pool footprint, which has members in Texas and nearby areas. As of about 4:30 pm CT Feb. 17, the SPP South Hub real-time price was about $698/MWh.

SPP issued at 1 pm CT Feb. 17 an Energy Emergency Alert Level 1 for its entire 14-state balancing authority area, which requires a request that all residential and commercial businesses conserve electricity use but does not require rotating outages. However, this was a step down from EEA Level 2, which requires the deployment of load-managed resources and notifies utilities to be ready to shed load if called upon.

As of the same time, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator's Texas Hub real-time price averaged about $335/MWh. MISO extended through 11 pm CT Feb. 17 its EEA Level 2 and Maximum Generation Emergency Event, which requires local utilities to be prepared to shed load on a rotating basis and to deploy load-managed resources.

The distribution of outages, in terms of raw number of customers and percentages, seems concentrated in industrial areas along the Gulf Coast, stretching from Beaumont to the Mexico border.

The largest number and percentage of customers without power in Texas are at CenterPoint Energy, which serves most of the Houston area, at 1.1 million and 44.4%, according to

Next is Oncor, which serves a broad swathe of the state stretching from the Piney Woods of East Texas to the plains of West Texas, and including the Dallas-Forth Worth area. Oncor's total is 460,449 or 12.2%.

But the third-largest total number of customers without power is in the American Electric Power Texas, which serves much of the central and southern Gulf Coast, where large LNG production facilities have been built.

Another big total is in the Entergy Texas footprint of East Texas, where more than 25,000 customers were without power the afternoon of Feb. 17 – about 5.4% of the total.

Top 10 utility customer outages in Texas Feb. 17
Customers out
% out
CenterPoint Energy
American Electric Power Texas
CPS Energy
Austin Energy
Texas New Mexico Power
Tri-County Electric Cooperative
Pedernales Electric Cooperative
Entergy Texas
Central Texas Electric Cooperative