ERCOT says winterizing power plants optional, power won't be fully restored until at least Thursday

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas is defending its Monday decision to have forced power outages. The agency said if it had waited, it might have turned into a statewide blackout.

The amount of power that has been restored in the metro has increased by a significant margin, but more than 220,000 are still in the dark Wednesday night.

Some have seen the power come back then go away again. Others have been in the dark nonstop since Monday.

In a virtual news conference, the CEO of ERCOT answered questions about the blackouts that in many cases have lasted days instead of hours.

LINK: ONCOR's outage map

ERCOT, the state’s electrical grid operator, said power generators began going offline Sunday – mainly natural gas and coal, along with nuclear and wind turbines. About 40% of energy generation is still offline.

CEO Bill Magness said as frustrating as it has been for millions of Texans, it was still the right decision.

"If we would have waited and not done outages not reduced demand to protect what was going on in the overall system we could have drifted towards a blackout," he said. "The blackout that can occur if you don't keep supply and demand in balance could last months. It's not just outages. You lose all electricity on a system and it could take months. It could take longer to rebuild that."

ERCOT said the power could return to normal as early as Thursday, but the CEO said it’s not likely.

"We know millions of people are suffering," Magness said. "We have no other priority than getting them electricity, o other priority."

Gov. Greg Abbott and some state lawmakers are calling for investigations into ERCOT's handling of this winter storm. Abbott even called for members of the ERCOT board to resign.

"Since 12:01 a.m. this morning, 6,000 megawatts have been added to the Texas grid. It equals to power for 1.2 million households," he said.

Gov. Abbott says while power generation slowly comes back, they are taking steps to get power other ways.

"Earlier today, I issued an order through Feb. 2 requiring those producers that have been shipping to locations outside of Texas to instead sell that natural gas to Texas power generators," he said.

 The public learned Wednesday that winterization is not mandatory for power plants in Texas.

Magness said ERCOT doesn't really have the power to mandate more winterization. He said the federal governing body sets guidelines and that discussion is ongoing.

Long story short, he said power plants haven't invested in winterization because peak strain is in the summer in Texas and extreme cold is rare.

Prior to this week, 2011 was the coldest winter in recent history.

"The amount of load we saw Sunday night before we instituted the outages was several thousand megawatts higher than what we had in 2011," Magness said.

ERCOT's explanation for generation going offline is because of the extreme cold temperature. The temps were forecasted well in advance of the storm.

ERCOT says the decision to cut power to millions for extended periods of time came about 1 a.m. Monday morning and avoided a bigger crisis like a catastrophic blackout that could have taken months to overcome.

But the moves were made without warning following an initial announcement Sunday of less severe rotating outages that would last under an hour.

Magness made a small admission about transparency and the lack of warning.

"Maybe we failed there, but we have endeavored to do that," he said.

Magness also said that ERCOT does import power from surrounding states. But since those areas were also experiencing severe winter weather, they pulled back on the power they provided.

Oncor and other providers said they are following instructions from ERCOT and there just isn’t enough power to avoid the long outages.