close
close

Power outage at CenterPoint sparks growing anger in Texas: “Unacceptable”

Power outage at CenterPoint sparks growing anger in Texas: “Unacceptable”

Dissatisfaction with Houston’s energy provider is growing, as more than a million people have been without power for several days since Hurricane Beryl.

Beryl made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane early Monday, knocking out power to nearly 3 million homes and businesses before weakening to a tropical depression.

Many residents of the country’s fourth-largest city are now facing a fourth day of sweltering temperatures without electricity. A heat warning remains in effect until Thursday. The National Weather Service office in Houston warns: “This heat is especially dangerous if you are without electricity and doing strenuous work outdoors.”

As of early Thursday, PowerOutage.us showed 1.1 million CenterPoint customers in Texas were still without power. The company’s main outage system was offline, so only the total number of customers without power across the entire service area was provided, according to a report on the PowerOutage.us website.

More from Newsweek Vault: Start building your emergency fund today

CenterPoint must now ask itself why it is taking so long to restore power.

“Life without power is not only inconvenient, it’s dangerous. @CenterPoint, your failure during this crisis is unacceptable. Texans have a right to reliable power, especially after natural disasters. This isn’t just poor service, it’s a risk to our lives,” Rep. Sylvia Garcia, whose district includes much of east Houston, wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Late Wednesday, CenterPoint Energy said it had “restored power to more than one million of the 2.26 million customers affected by Hurricane Beryl in the first 55 hours of its recovery efforts and remains focused on serving customers without power.”

More from Newsweek Vault: How to build an emergency fund

The statement continued: “Due to ongoing progress, the company expects to have an additional 400,000 customers connected by the end of the day on Friday, July 12, and an additional 350,000 customers connected by the end of the day on Sunday, July 14.”

The number of power outages peaked at 2.7 million customers after the storm made landfall, the Associated Press reported, citing PowerOutage.us.

In her X-post, Garcia included a letter she sent to CenterPoint CEO Jason Wells demanding answers as to why the company was not better prepared given Houston’s regular weather extremes.

She wrote: “Given the region’s scorching temperatures, CenterPoint’s inability to restore power more quickly is creating a public health crisis, forcing people to recover from the aftermath of a hurricane while also surviving extreme heat.”

“Hurricane Beryl was not a particularly strong storm system, but it should have been taken seriously given how frequently such tropical systems strike Gulf Coast cities like Houston. Even with more than 72 hours’ warning, CenterPoint refused to deploy the necessary workers to promptly restore power to millions of customers for perceived reasons of efficiency.”

Garcia added, “As a Houston resident and CenterPoint customer, I am tired of CenterPoint’s excuses. Houstonians demand answers and want accountability. Our constituents need to be assured that this will never happen again.”

She said CenterPoint and other utilities need to “invest in improving their infrastructure and ensure they always have adequate personnel ready to start working once these natural disasters subside.”

A CenterPoint spokesman said Newsweek“We are communicating directly with the congresswoman and her team.”

Newsweek has emailed Garcia’s office for comment.

Construction machinery is stationed near transmission towers
Construction equipment near the power poles at the CenterPoint Energy power plant in Houston on June 9, 2022. CenterPoint Energy is facing anger as more than 1 million Houston residents have been without power for days…


Brandon Bell/Getty Images

On Wednesday, Brad Tutunjian, vice president of power distribution and supply at CenterPoint, defended the company’s response at a meeting with city officials.

He said the company was committed to restoring power as quickly and safely as possible, but did not give a specific timeline. Houston Chronicle reported.

Mayor John Whitmire said the company needs to “do a better job” of restoring power to remaining customers, adding after the city council meeting: “That is the consensus of the citizens of Houston. That is mine,” the outlet reported.

Residents also expressed their frustration on social media. “Abolish @CenterPoint, put Texas back on the national grid, sue every single member of the Public Utility Commission for gross negligence and use the damages to pay for the power lines to be put underground,” one person wrote on X.

Another wrote: “Centerpoint needs to face a hearing. They made $6 billion in profit last year but can’t keep an outage tracker running. They can’t invest in infrastructure. Houston needs to break their monopoly.”

A photo taken by a timeline A reporter showed graffiti on Interstate 10 that read “Centerpointle$$.”

Governor Greg Abbott, who is currently on an economic development trip to Asia, has also come under criticism for his reaction to Beryl. Newsweek has emailed Abbott’s office for comment.

In an interview with Fox 7, Abbott said he would direct the Texas Public Utility Commission to investigate why Houston is plagued by repeated power outages after severe weather. “Is it a structural problem? Is it a personnel problem? What is causing this?” Abbott asked.

He wants to ensure that the commission “provides information to the Texas Legislature before the next session begins.”

Update 7/11/24, 8:25 a.m. ET: This article has been updated with comment from a CenterPoint spokesperson.