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US govt declares power emergency in Texas amid Arctic blast

The US Energy Department has declared a power emergency in the country’s second-largest state Texas amid an Arctic winter blast that was feared to cause a shortage of electricity in the state. 

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the state grid operator which serves 90 per cent of electric customers in Texas, requested the order on Friday, allowing it to exceed certain air pollution limits to boost generation amid record power demand in the state, Xinhua News Agency reported.

The Energy Department said in the order that units that produce about 11,000 megawatts of coal and gas-fired power, 4,000 megawatts of wind and 1,700 megawatts of solar power were down or scaled back on Friday due to the winter storm.

“While the vast majority of generating units in the ERCOT region continue to operate without any problem, a small number of units have experienced operating difficulties due to cold weather or gas curtailments,” said the order.

Local media reported some power production went offline as power demand reached an unexpected high across Texas on Friday, citing ERCOT officials, who admitted that power demand had been underestimated in the forecast.

However, ERCOT said on Saturday afternoon that the state’s power grid has withstood freezing temperatures through much of the state, expecting the power supply to keep up with demand.

According to the Energy Department, power demand in Texas reached an all-time winter peak of over 74,000 megawatts on Friday morning.

Earlier this week, AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jon Porter called the Arctic blast the “biggest test” of the state power grid since the February 2021 winter storm, which killed more than 200 Texans and pushed the state grid to the brink of total failure.

AccuWeather estimates that Texas suffered 130 billion US dollars in economic damage due to the 2021 winter storm that led to widespread blackouts across the state.

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