SAN ANTONIO – As power outages continue to plague San Antonio, the head of CPS Energy says relief may not arrive until the weekend.
Cold weather has both knocked many generating facilities offline around the state while simultaneously spurring demand - forcing the Texas grid’s operator, the Energy Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), to have transmission companies like CPS institute blackouts to preserve the wider grid. CEO Paula Gold-Williams told council members in a special council session Wednesday afternoon that changing weather forecasts continue to affect predictions on when that’ll end.
“It looks like there could be some more ice or precipitation coming through. And so it might be Saturday before we can get some really good relief,” Gold-Williams told council members. “It needs to have a warming effect where we’re not always going down and below freezing to almost zero levels. And we need to have the temperatures go up and we need them to stay there and go mild. And we need it across the state.”
However, not everyone will have power immediately, she said. The outage management process has involved more blown fuses than usual, which will need to be fixed. So some people may not get power until Monday.
The utility has also stopped using its automated system for managing rolling outages after it frustrated many residents who saw only a few minutes of power at a time. Instead, Gold-Williams said CPS is now manually rotating which areas undergo outages, and it aims for people to be with or without power for three to five hours at a time.
A CPS spokesman told KSAT about one-third of its system will continue to be unaffected by the outages since they are on circuits with critical infrastructure like hospitals.
Gold-Williams and SAWS CEO Robert Puente joined the special city council meeting where they were grilled by San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and council members who had been hearing from furious constituents who “want answers” as to why they don’t have their utilities.
Gold-Williams and Puente sympathized with customers and said their crews are working around the clock to solve these issues, but it could be a matter of days before most or the city sees relief.
Gold-Williams explained that every community has an energy peak, which typically happens in the summer. She said CPS’ capacity is 7,000 megawatts, and a typical summer peak for demand is about 5,100 MW.
The winter storm brought demand up to about 5,500 MW, with fewer power plants open at this time due to typically less demand, Gold-Williams said, and there were problems with every energy source.
The Energy Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) which manages Texas’s power grid said 185 generating units tripped offline - some of them multiple times - because of the weather.
The plants used to bring San Antonio its energy are designed to withstand the area’s typical temperature range — just below freezing and up to more than 100 degrees.
Gold-Williams said energy officials have also seen an increased demand for natural gas, priced skyrocketed more than 10,000 percent and haven’t been capped yet. There were also supply issues as natural gas wellheads froze.
Gold-Williams also pointed to some issues with renewable energy, but those methods aren’t used as much during the winter and springtime.
Gold-Williams pushed for more conservation from those who have the power to lessen the demand on the system and stabilize it before it can be fully restored. She said CPS Energy is working with local businesses and organizations in the city to try to reduce power consumption.
Nirenberg has asked the utility company CEOs to step up their messaging systems to better inform the community.
During the meeting, Puente informed community members about a precautionary boil water notice for water used for consumption. For more information, click here.