‘We’re in a much stronger position:’ State, local officials claim power grid is ready for arctic blast

Published: Dec. 20, 2022 at 11:06 PM CST
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Nearly two years after hundreds of Texans died in a winter storm, state and Lubbock power officials claim the grid is ready for below-freezing temperatures later this week. Lubbock Power and Light spokesman Matt Rose says with major reforms implemented regarding reliability, leadership, and communication between state agencies, the ERCOT grid should withstand the storm without any systemic issues.

Rose says while temperatures won’t be as low for as long, and there shouldn’t be much precipitation, LP&L is treating the arctic blast this weekend like the deadly winter storm of 2021, to ensure the system is ready to respond. He’s confident that although the weather will cause some damage, this weekend will not look like last February.

“Certainly as you look across Lubbock and the state of Texas this weekend, there will be outages because of winter weather, that’s just unavoidable. The question is, is it sectionalized, and are you able to address it quickly and get folks back on? And certainly, here in Lubbock, we feel like we are. And we’re not getting any indication from downstate that we need to be worried about it at this point,” Rose said.

Rose says in the past few years, LP&L has invested nearly $500 million dollars in the local grid. That includes new transmission lines, upping the voltage on other lines, building three new substations, and renovating 12 substations. He says all of those changes are important because they improve not only the reliability of the system, but its capacity as well. With more capacity, he says that makes it easier to work more efficiently to get power back on.

“Here at home, LP&L is going to make sure that we have all of our crews strategically staged around the city so that if the winds kick up and a tree limb falls into a line, or if we have some icy precipitation that breaks a line or causes a car to run into equipment, that our crews are not just responding but are responding right there in the area,” Rose said.

Texas now requires every power plant in the state to become fully weatherized. ERCOT president Pablo Vegas addressed his board in a meeting Tuesday morning, reporting about 200 of its facilities have been inspected.

“We want to try to have a realistic expectation of what could happen. And as we look at this season, we expect to have an adequate supply for the situations and the scenarios that we expect to see,” Vegas said.

ERCOT is projecting demand on Friday will exceed its previous predictions for this winter - expecting the state will need around 70,000 MW of electricity. Last month, it predicted a seasonal peak of only 67,400 MW. Vegas says the grid should have an extra 20,000 MW of capacity this weekend.

LP&L is still in the process of moving the last 30 percent of customers to ERCOT. Alongside the transition, Rose says communication has improved between state agencies.

“When you take all of these things together, we feel like we’re in a much stronger position here locally, but also across the state - certainly stronger than we were before the storm, or the years that preceded it,” Rose said. “And so, looking at this week - we’re taking it very seriously. We’re coordinating across the city. We’re doing everything to make sure our resources are stockpiled and ready to go. But, as of right now we do not see any issue and we’re confident that if something should arise, our folks can address it very quickly and get folks back where they need to be.”

Whether it’s a winter storm or a prolonged heat wave, Rose says LP&L will proactively suspend disconnect policies for a few days so that people can stay safe and keep the heat on.

“Customers do not need to worry about that. Our folks are just solely focused on watching the grid system and making sure it’s safe and reliable,” Rose said.

Rose says as folks use more electricity to heat their home this weekend, they can naturally expect a higher bill. He says you can contact the City of Lubbock Utilities office if you need assistance, and you can find some tips to keep your home warm using less electricity here.