The Texas Public Utility Commission approved new mandatory rules Thursday requiring power plants to fix problems that caused outages last winter.
The PUC is also requiring power generators to winterize their equipment to standards first recommended in a state report produced after another winter storm ten years ago in 2011. Power companies that do not comply will face state penalties.
The Commission also plans to implement more detailed weatherization standards once an ongoing state weather study is completed.
At a PUC meeting in Austin Thursday, commissioners hailed the new regulations as a victory for Texans who suffered through the February power disaster.
"I think it is a landmark - a landmark rule on weatherization because never before have we had such robust weatherization standards in place with enforcement authority", said PUC Commissioner Lori Cobos.
"Lets get out there. Let's start imposing this standard, get them ready. Winter is right around the corner", said PUC Commissioner Will McAdams.
But some industry observers caution that winterization rules for power plants only address one portion of what caused widespread problems last winter.
"The other shoe to drop is what happens on the gas side. As you know, most of the power plants that failed were because of fuel supply issues", said Alison Silverstein a former PUC advisor and former advisor to the Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
A recent federal inquiry into the Texas winter outages found gas supply issues were the second leading cause of outages at power plants, after frozen equipment. Gas regulations are handled by the Texas Railroad Commission which will meet in November to discuss how much of the gas system should also be required to winterize.
The PUC is also looking at broader issues that threaten power grid reliability year round. Even this week supplies of electricity have been very tight in the evening as solar power drops off and some traditional power plant are down for maintenance.
Today the commission began talking about ways to better harness solar and wind power but also ensure there is enough electricity on days when solar and wind can't produce.
NBC 5 Investigates detailed the PUC's plan when it was first proposed. More on the plan can be found here.
NBC 5 Investigates
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Other Reports From NBC 5 Investigates
- Feds Recommend Steps to Avoid Future Winter Power Outages in Texas (Nov. 17)
- Texas PUC Requires Power Plants Fix Issues Related to Winter Outages (Oct. 21)
- Vistra Shows Off Cold Weather Protection for Power Plants (Oct. 15)
- Issues That Led to Catastrophic Winter Power Outages Similar to 2011, Regulators Say (Sept. 24)
- How the Gas Industry Downplayed Its Role in Winter Power Outages While Profiting From the Storm (Sept. 22)
- ERCOT Releases New ‘Roadmap' for Power Grid Success (July 14)
- ERCOT Vows to Investigate Early Summer Power Plant Breakdowns (June 15)
- What Texas Lawmakers Did (And Did Not Do) to Address the Power Crisis (June 1)
- Texas at ‘Elevated Risk' of Summer Power Shortages, Potential Outages, Regulators Warn (May 27)
- NBC 5 Investigates: How Texas Wind Power Could Work Better in Cold Weather (May 20)
- NBC 5 Investigates How Colder States Avoid Winter Blackouts (May 12)
- NBC 5 Investigates Which Power Plants Left Texans Powerless in February (April 29)
- ERCOT Had Concerns About Power Supplies Before Tuesday's Conservation Alert (April 15)
- Texas Power Conservation Alert Raises Alarm Across Texas (April 14)
- NBC 5 Investigates: U.S. Senate Probes Texas Power Outages (March 12)
- Texas Speaker Unveils Plan to Prevent Repeat of State's Energy Crisis (March 9)
- Many Power Plants Didn't Meet Winter Recommendations in Past Seasons (March 5)
- Lawmakers Grill ERCOT CEO on First Day of Power Crisis Hearings (Feb. 26)
- ERCOT: Texas Was 4 Minutes and 37 Seconds Away From a Blackout That Could Have Lasted Months (Feb. 25)
- Abbott Calls for Laws to Prevent Power Crisis Repeat (Feb. 25)
- ERCOT Messages Reveal Actions Prior to Massive Power Outage (Feb. 20)
- Customers Say Oncor's ‘Rolling Outage' Message Left Them Confused, Angry (Feb. 19)
- ERCOT CEO Defends Actions Leading Up to Winter Storm, Record Outages (Feb. 19)
- Federal Regulators Plan to Investigate Massive Texas Power Outage (Feb. 18)
- ERCOT Didn't Conduct On-Site Inspections of Power Plants to Verify Winter Preparedness (Feb. 18)
- What Happened to ‘the Energy Capital of the World' During This Winter Event? (Feb. 16)
- Power Outages and Texas Electric Emergency Explained (Feb. 15)