Texas power grid

Texas PUC Requires Power Plants Fix Issues Related to Winter Outages

NBCUniversal, Inc.

The Texas Public Utility Commission approved new mandatory rules Thursday requiring power plants to fix problems that caused outages last winter.

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.


Other Reports From NBC 5 Investigates