Mr. Hogan, a professor of global energy policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School, acknowledged that while many Texans have struggled this week without heat and electricity, the state’s energy market has functioned as it was designed.
That design relies on basic economics: When electricity demand increases, so too does the price for power. The higher prices force consumers to reduce energy use to prevent cascading failures of power plants that could leave the entire state in the dark, while encouraging power plants to generate more electricity.
“It’s not convenient,” Professor Hogan said. “It’s not nice. It’s necessary.”
Still, the rules of economics offered little comfort for Andrea Ramos after the lights went out in her home in Austin around 2 a.m. on Monday.
“We’re living in the pandemic and now we’re also living with a snowstorm,” Ms. Ramos, an immigration organizer, said. “I’m angry because we are one of the most powerful states in the country, we have one of the best economies in the country. And yet, we’re not prepared for an emergency like this.”
Her discomfort and rising anger mirrored that of thousands of others across Texas who were demanding answers over why they remained in a prolonged blackout when they were expecting to be without power for only a short while, if at all.
“I don’t understand how so many people are without power for so long,” said Diana Gomez, who lives in Austin and works for a nonprofit group, adding that she questioned how officials decided where to cut off service and what it would mean for her older neighbors or families with small children.
“I feel very frustrated,” she said. “I feel very confused — and cold.”
David Montgomery reported from Austin, Rick Rojas from Nashville, Ivan Penn from Los Angeles, and James Dobbins from San Antonio. Allyson Waller contributed reporting from Conroe, Texas, Brad Plumer from Washington, and John Schwartz from New York.