CTEC caught in perfect storm

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Utility is working 24/7 to restore power to region's customers

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  • Bob Loth, Central Texas Electric Cooperative CEO, estimated that more than 500 poles had been downed by ice and falling tree limbs.
    Bob Loth, Central Texas Electric Cooperative CEO, estimated that more than 500 poles had been downed by ice and falling tree limbs.
  • Gillespie County resident Larissa Hallford took this photo of a power line pole snapped in half. This type of damage was one reason many were without power.
    Gillespie County resident Larissa Hallford took this photo of a power line pole snapped in half. This type of damage was one reason many were without power.
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If Central Texas Electric Cooperative (CTEC) CEO Bob Loth seems a little defensive these days, it’s not without reason.

Loth has been catching a lot of heat from upset electric customers who have lost power during the arctic blast that has chilled the state for the last week, causing more than 3 million Texans to lose power and suffer through prolonged blackouts and brownouts.

In an interview with the Fredericksburg Standard-Radio Post, Loth explained that CTEC is working as hard and fast as it can to restore power but noted some remote rural areas might be without electricity for as much as a month.

“I’ve had crews working 16-hour days for several days in a row now,” he said.

Gillespie County was the hardest-hit county in the CTEC service area, and Loth said he can draw a line from Harper to Doss and Enchanted Rock showing where the most damage was done by the storm.

He estimated that more than 500 poles have been knocked down by ice and falling tree limbs.

“We have no hope of repairing all of that this week,” he said.

Loth said some customers in more remote areas could be without service for as long as a month just because of the difficult terrain crews have to overcome to reach downed poles.

“With two inches of rain and an inch of ice … it makes it difficult to get into places to change poles out,” he said.

He said he and every other utility in Texas has asked for help but none is currently forthcoming. He expects that to change in coming days as other utilities complete restoration and can space people and equipment.

“Every utility in the state is in this situation now,” Loth said.

He said CTEC is currently in an outage recovery mode but will switch to a rebuild stage after a few days. He said his focus is on getting power restored to as many customers as quickly as possible. As for the rolling blackouts, he said CTEC has no control over that.

“The state mandated rolling blackouts. We absolutely have no control over that,” Loth said. “That comes from ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) as managed by LCRA (Lower Colorado River Authority).”

He said substations servicing hospitals and other essential facilities are exempted from the blackouts. Customers also serviced through those substations are the “lucky ones” to not lose power.

Loth said the storm did more damage to the state’s electric grid than it was built to handle.

“We were as prepared as we could be for temperatures we have not seen before and lasting as long as we have seen,” he said.

He blamed the state and ERCOT for not being prepared to handle a rare weather event like this.

“I don’t think this could have been prevented. Texas has not done a good job supporting all the additional people moving here,” he said.

He also noted that the system was built to handle hot summer weather, not cold winter weather, especially a storm as cold and prolonged as this one.

Locally, Loth said he has plenty of materials on hand and on order to take care of the restoration.

“Our goal revolves around three things: good weather and more people and equipment,” he said.

In the meantime, he has two requests for local residents.

First, don’t rush gas stations when returning to the road. Gas and diesel are limited and most stations are out. “My people need the fuel so they can get the work done,” he said.

Secondly, he asks for patience.

“Everybody wants their power on but not everybody is going to get it on and not on immediately,” he said.