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This photo shows an electrical facility in downtown Houston, Texas, the United States, Dec. 23, 2022. Thousands of people were without power as the Arctic blast rushed into the south-central U.S. state of Texas on Thursday, bringing freezing temperatures expected to last through Christmas.
Chen Chen—Xinhua/Getty Images

The U.S. Energy Department declared a power emergency in Texas, citing a shortage of electricity as an Arctic winter blast causes power plants to fail.

The order allows the state’s grid operator to exceed certain air pollution limits to boost generation amid record power demand in the state. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, whose service area includes 90% of electric customers in Texas, requested the emergency order Friday, warning it may need to resort to blackouts.

“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,” the Energy Department said in its order.

The order said 11,000 megawatts of coal and gas-fired power, 4,000 megawatts of wind and 1,700 megawatts of solar power were out or derated to weather conditions.

It will require the grid operators to provide detailed reporting to the Energy Department and completion of a post-incident special environmental analysis, a department spokeswoman added in an email.

Demand on the Texas power grid reached an all-time winter peak in excess of 74,000 megawatts on Friday morning, according to the Energy Department. Texas officials have been assuring residents the power grid is up to the challenge and that there’s no danger of a repeat of the February 2021 catastrophe that killed more than 200 people.

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