Texas power grid survived arctic blast, but some experts still concerned about its reliability

The Texas power grid survived the arctic blast late last week with no grid-related outages. But some energy experts say grid conditions were still too tight, and could be trouble if we see ice or snow the next time around.

ERCOT credited upgrades made to the grid since Winter Storm Uri’s deadly outages nearly two years ago, for ensuring the grid’s stability during the recent cold snap.

"I do get the sense that some improvement has been made," said Doug Lewin, president of Austin-based Stoic Energy.

The ERCOT grid did have enough power supply throughout the frigid conditions. In the Austin area, any outages were limited and unrelated to grid conditions.

In a pair of tweets, Gov. Abbott touted the grid’s stability and reliability, noting: "No Texan has lost power because of any failure by the ERCOT grid."

In a statement, ERCOT added it "had additional tools left to deploy should additional generation be needed." ERCOT did not enter emergency levels.

"So I don't think the takeaway for anybody from this should be like, oh, it was really cold. The power didn't go out, everything's fixed," said Lewin.

While there was enough supply, we’re learning demand for power shattered expectations to the tune of 13,000 extra megawatts statewide on Friday, raising concerns about ERCOT’s ability to accurately predict how much power will be needed during winter weather.

"That’s a huge miss," said Lewin.

Aside from that, ERCOT quietly sent a letter to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm Friday, asking for an exemption to pollution limits for power generators.

In that letter, ERCOT asked the federal government to acknowledge that "an electric reliability emergency exists within the state of Texas," noting "11,000 MW of thermal… 4,000 MW of wind… and 1,700 MW of solar units are currently outaged…due to [weather] conditions."

"That's a lot. It's not nearly as much as Uri but it's more than what ERCOT expects in their seasonal assessment," said Lewin.

In the letter, ERCOT told the feds that because those plants went down, "it is possible that ERCOT may need to curtail some amount of firm load [Friday] evening, [Saturday] morning, or possibly [Saturday] evening or Sunday morning, in order to maintain the security of the ERCOT system."

"That is industry jargon for 'there's significant risk of outages right now,'" said Lewin.

Regarding the federal order, ERCOT said in a statement:

"ERCOT took precautionary measures by requesting from the Department of Energy that generating units within the ERCOT interconnection to operate up to their maximum generation output levels, if needed. The request would have allowed generators to promptly respond if conditions warranted.

The DOE Order was a tool to have at our ready should we need it, which we did not. ERCOT was never in emergency conditions and had tools to deploy ahead of even using the DOE Order. The Order could only be used if we were in emergency conditions, specifically EEA2 or 3."

However, ERCOT’s statement did not address why Texans weren’t brought into the loop about the risk of outages.

"I think that is absolutely inexcusable," said Lewin. "I mean, they've got to keep in touch with people and explain what's going on."

Lewin says he believes communication needs to improve across the board, especially when it comes to the grid’s natural gas producers.

ERCOT declined FOX 7’s request for an on-camera interview.