Texas power grid

Power, Gas Providers Give State Lawmakers Update on Winter Preps

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With the arrival of cooler weather, Texans are rightfully wondering if they'll have enough electricity and gas in the coming months.

It has been seven months since the power failure that left millions in the dark for days, led to the deaths of more than 200 people and caused damage across the state.

State lawmakers spent Tuesday getting an update on the plans to protect the power grid from another crisis.

The state Senate committee on business and commerce began the hearing by stating that it has become clear that failing to invest in the state’s grid infrastructure and reliability is a choice Texans can no longer afford to make.

The committee heard from leaders of the Public Utility Commission, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas and the Railroad Commission.

Peter Lake, Chairman of PUC, told lawmakers the agency has made several ‘short-term’ changes including purchasing more reserves based on real-time conditions and adopting an ‘abundance of caution' to increase the margin of safety.

Lake acknowledged the grid has already faced “reliability challenges,” including in June when Texans were urged to conserve energy.

“We need to address that in our re-design,” he said.

Long-term solutions will be part of a ‘market re-design’ plan which will be ready in December.

At some point, PUC will require all generators and transportation operators to meet 2011 winterization standards or face a $2 million a day penalty.

Senators grilled the executive director of the Railroad Commission, which regulates the gas system ensuring providers don’t lose power.

The commission is drafting rules based on new legislation for the upcoming winter season, allowing producers to essentially ‘opt out’ of being considered ‘critical infrastructures’ during emergencies by paying a $150 fee and explaining why they cannot safely operate when needed.

One reason could be they cannot safely operate or are not winterized, said Executive Director Wei Wang.

When it comes to winterization efforts, Wang said “Our weatherization rule will not be adopted for this winter because we have to put the map together” of who is considered a critical infrastructure.

ERCOT’s interim CEO Brad Jones told lawmakers he will be setting out on a ‘listening tour’ across the state beginning in October to listen to residents’ concerns about the power grid and to explain how they will be ready this year. Jones said he will be making a stop in the DFW area.

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