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Texas: day four without power and water for some, fishtanks freeze, pipes burst, “worse than Africa”

Even if the Texas situation resolves tomorrow the anger will burn for months

A few hours ago, about one quarter of Texas still didn’t have power. After three or four days without power some houses are so cold the fishtanks have frozen over. Some people have been without power for 84 hours straight and ERCOT — the Texas Electricity management can’t say when it will be restored (though they have just announced it might be soon). It is still operating under the EEA 3 highest emergency level. Many people have had their power return for a couple of hours only to lose it again. And there is a burning anger at the unfairness of it all. People say they can see houses, shops and office buildings “lit up like Christmas trees” but have had no power themselves for days. Some are using their cars to warm themselves and charge phones but after three days they are running out of gas. There are restaurants that are offering free food.

Others are desperately using gas BBQ’s indoors even though it produces the deadly carbon monoxide gas. The death toll won’t be known for days.

Daylan Cook, 18, said he had built a fire inside a ceramic pot in his apartment living room, aided by hand sanitizer and gasoline. … The local emergency medical services department said it had responded to 63 carbon monoxide exposure calls in 2 1/2 days. 

People are being told to boil water on outdoor gas BBQ’s to fill hot water bottles to keep themselves warm, and advised to stay in one small room, and to seal the doors and windows.

Civilization on the edge

The water supply network in Austin was being drained because pipes in houses without electricity had burst, water mains had broken and customers were both storing water and also leaving taps dripping in an effort to stop their own pipes bursting. The demand for water was so great it exceeded supply in some areas by 250%.  That meant the water pressure dropped below the minimum needed for sanitation. On Wednesday the City of Austin issued a water-boil notice because Austin’s largest water treatment facility, the Ullrich Water Treatment Plant, lost power. They described it as just precautionary, but it meant that many people without power now had to find a way to sterilize water, and people with power added more of a drain to the system.

St David’s hospital in Houston has no water pressure or heat. They can’t transport patients to other hospitals as the others are facing their own issues.

Meanwhile there were dozens of water main pipes also leaking, but Austin Water couldn’t drive out to fix some breakages because of the ice, and sometimes they didn’t even know where the breaches were, their instrumentation wasn’t working, the data wasn’t coming in, and snow was obscuring everything. There were warnings that some fire hydrants wouldn’t be working due to the lack of water pressure.

And so the chaos spread.

How would Texas have fared if they were 100% renewable?

About an hour ago ERCOT said that most power was “able” to be supplied

The grid is now up to 58 GW of capacity. Wind power is now back to 6,800 MW (some more turbines have thawed out).

In the latest update ERCOT says that a “Majority of customers are able to be restored.” Apparently, it’s a theoretical restoration. It’s now up to electrical retailers to connect the dots. There is no longer any forced load shedding although they also say 40GW of generation is still not operational. How does that work? Rolling blackouts are expected to continue and people are being warned not to turn everything back on.

The Real Time System shows things are better than yesterday with 55GW of generation and 3GW in reserve. But since demand rose to 70GW on Sunday, most people are still asking if rolling outages will roll on…  Hundreds of comments on the Twitter feed in response to the ERCOT announcement still don’t have power. 

The latest update on Power Capacity doesn’t necessarily look all that promising. See ERCOT live data.

Though don’t look for the directors names, suddenly the ERCOT webpage has delisted the entire board. As @duncanwrites said “That’s a win for transparency. This page had 20+ names on it earlier today…”.




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