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Gov. Dan Patrick says investigation into power grid failure to start this week

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) — Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick addressed Texans Monday following the deadly winter storm, saying the state’s legislature would begin an investigation this week into the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or as the public has heard it referred to many times over the last several days, ERCOT.

Patrick said that while he would not be pointing fingers, he said the hearings will begin as soon as Thursday and Friday to gather information and line up witnesses.

“This will be an ongoing process. There may not be hearings five days a week, but there will be many hearings throughout this session,” Patrick told the media Monday.

The lieutenant governor started off by saying that though the weather was far worse than expected, he believes ERCOT wasn’t prepared as they claimed.

“We got information from ERCOT last week that they were prepared for the storm. And their preparation forecast projected that they would need about 57,000 megawatts of power to be sure that nothing worse than some brownouts happened,” Patrick began. “But when it hit the first night around 9 p.m., the demand on power for all the generators through ERCOT was 69,000 megawatts of power. They were able to meet that demand in the beginning of the freeze.”

But by four hours later, Patrick said, the wind turbines froze, followed by the gas well heads and the nuclear and clean burning coal plants.

Still, some politicians focused the failures on wind power, which in reality only makes up about a fraction of the reduction in power-generating capacity that brought an outage to millions across Texas.

As catastrophic as the outage felt, Patrick maintains things could have been worse.

“The next thing that happens or could happen is plants catch on fire, there could be literal explosions, the whole grid could have collapsed,” Patrick said.

“Had the entire grid collapsed, we’re taking about power out in 90% of the state,” he added. “About 10% is not on ERCOT. Ninety percent of the state would have been without power, and it could have been weeks and months to restore it. It’s called a black start. If you lose power, you have to bring it all back up and it would take a while to repair it and bring it back online.”

Compounding the issue was that crews could not get on the roads to make repairs due to the conditions.

“I believe that ERCOT was not prepared. They told us they were ready. They obviously were not. The generators, if they told ERCOT they were ready and winterized, they obviously were not,” Patrick said.

Patrick went on to reiterate that the legislature would subpoena people to come and testify over the power failures, if necessary.

“When I see people who die of hypothermia, or carbon monoxide poisoning, when I see the disruption to the business community, the people who can’t get a hot meal, can’t get water, and we’re pretty far along that way and working hard on that,” he said. “But this cannot stand.”

Patrick also mentioned the extraordinarily high electricity bills people who did not lose power are suddenly getting. He said that this weekend alone, he received calls about $5,000, $10,000, even $20,000 bills, but was not yet able to provide any solutions.

“We’re going to figure our way through it. It’s not easy, but we will. So I’m saying to the people, don’t panic on that issue. We’ll figure this out,” he told reporters.
Patrick was also asked about Sen. Ted Cruz’s leaving the state to take his family on a trip to Cancun in the midst of a winter storm that left millions freezing and, as of Sunday night, is linked to 22 deaths.

“Ted said it was a mistake, and I think he is correct in saying that,” Patrick said briefly.

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