Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas


A Guide to the 2011 Texas Blackouts


February 2, 2011 was a dark day for many Texans. Extreme cold led to a spike in electricity use, and coal and natural gas plants and electric utility companies didn’t have the resources to maintain service. As a result, the state operated rolling blackouts—short-term, intentional power outages that moved in pockets across the state. Some homes and businesses lost power from 20 minutes to over eight hours. The blackouts left business and homeowners frustrated with power companies and state energy management. Austin residents criticized Austin Energy for poor planning and insufficient warning to customers.

The power that was available on the day of the blackouts was expensive, as power companies turned to old plants with poor efficiency to generate more power. Despite continued freezing weather and warnings of another blackout, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) was able to keep the power on.  Officials said the blackouts were necessary to prevent statewide power outages that would have lasted longer and cost more money. The Texas State Senate examined complaints about poor communication from the state’s grid operator, noting that the first media alert about the outages went out an hour after the blackouts began in some parts of the state. Other critics accused ERCOT and power plants of manipulating the market, raising price caps the day before the outages occurred.

Latest Posts

Two Texas Power Plants Went Offline This Morning, Adding to Energy Emergency

At the heart of the energy emergency that brought Texas to the brink of rolling blackouts this morning was the failure of power plants to provide electricity when the state needed it, says the state grid operator. That included two plants in North Central Texas that suffered equipment failure caused by freezing weather. In fact, the state saw higher […]

There’s a Solution to Power Outages During Texas Storms, But You Won’t Like It

Against the backdrop of a debate over whether Texas has enough power generation (i.e. power plants) to meet growing demand, two instances of large-scale outages in the past few weeks show a more common vulnerability: power lost to fallen or damaged power lines during storms. Could anything have been done to prevent the outages? The short […]

Changing How Texans Pay for Power

Texans can add one more item to the list of reasons to love the state: It has the best market for electricity. Anywhere.. At least, according to Donna Nelson. She’s chairman of the Texas Public Utility Commission. “It’s arguably the most successful in the world,” Nelson told attendees at the IHS energy conference in Houston. […]

Even When the Lights Are On in Texas, the Public Could Be in the Dark

Welcome to August, the month when we all keep a close eye on the Texas electrical grid. And it can be a difficult thing to keep an eye on. For instance, we temporarily lost up to 750 megawatts of power yesterday when a unit of Luminant’s Martin Lake coal-fired power plant shut down in Northeast […]

ERCOT: So, About that Chance of Rolling Blackouts…

Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images On a certain level, you have to feel a bit of sympathy for the Texas grid, managed by the Electric Reliablity Council of Texas (ERCOT). It’s a well-known fact that there isn’t enough power in the state to meet the grid’s guidelines. The group behind the grid would like […]

At House Hearing, Water Issues Dominate

When water became scarce in Texas last year, scrutiny quickly fell on the state’s burgeoning energy industry. Proposed new coal plants had trouble getting water permits. And hydraulic fracturing drillers faced accusations of groundwater contamination and excessive water use. But at the House joint hearing on energy and natural resources held last Wednesday, industry leaders gave representatives […]

Census Bureau: Everyone is ‘Gone To Texas’

Texas schoolchildren learn the legend surrounding the letters “GTT.”  This abbreviation for “Gone to Texas” allegedly became a common sight on the doors of people who had left their homes in search of opportunity in Texas during the mid-nineteenth century. People may no longer be posting the signs, but the sentiment couldn’t be more timely. A […]

With Extreme Weather Coming, ERCOT Says They’re Ready

Temperatures breaching the low 100s are expected to hit all around the state early next week, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). By Monday, the high in the Dallas-Fort Worth area should be about 100 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. “This is exactly the season that the generators have been […]

The Texas Grid: There’s an App for That

This morning I went to the iPhone’s App Store and downloaded the new mobile app from ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the Texas grid. It’s free, and we’re grid junkies here at StateImpact Texas, so why not take it for a spin? So how’s the app? It’s okay. Much of the content is […]

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »