Texas Two-Step Proposed to Protect Power Plants in Winter

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The Texas Public Utility Commission’s staff released a blueprint Monday night for new rules designed to keep electricity flowing during winter storms.

PUC staffers are proposing a two-phased plan in order to ensure that some new rules would be in effect for the upcoming winter season. More comprehensive year-round weatherization standards would be implemented later in a second phase once a comprehensive weather study is completed by the Texas State Climatologist and ERCOT which operates the Texas power grid.

Phase one of the proposed plan would require Texas power plant operators to fix any, “know, acute issues” that resulted in power plant outages last winter, including during the February winter storm that left Texans freezing and even dying inside frigid homes with no electricity.

Power plants would also be required to implement winter weather preparations that were recommended in a report known as the 2012 Quanta Report, a study commissioned by state regulators after another winter storm caused outages in Texas in February of 2011. While that report recommended changes nearly a decade ago, Texas did not implement any mandatory rules requiring power plants to take specific steps to protect against cold weather. 

But, after the 2021 storm, the Texas Legislature passed a series of bills that directed the PUC and other state agencies to implement enforceable rules designed to prevent a future disaster.

In the PUC staff proposal published Monday night, staffers say that the commission should not require natural gas-fueled power plants to certify that their gas supply is winterized. The PUC staff says gas issues are the purview of the Texas Railroad Commission and that the PUC will work with Railroad Commission staff to ensure that the gas supply to power plants is better protected. A recent Federal Energy Regulatory Commission analysis of the February power crisis showed that gas supply issues were the second leading cause of outages after frozen power plant equipment.

The Texas PUC is scheduled to meet again later this week as commissioners continue to finalize the new rules which are expected to be adopted by the commission in the next 60 days.

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