Greg Abbott

Abbott Demands PUC Act More Aggressively to Shore Up Grid

Among the directives, the governor says providers should adhere to a maintenance schedule to ensure adequate supply

power lines

One month after declaring Texas’ electric power grid fixed, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott demanded aggressive action from state utility regulators Tuesday to shore up that grid.

In a letter to the Public Utility Commission, Abbott directed the commission to have the Electric Reliability Council of Texas incentivize the development and maintenance of additional natural gas-, coal- and nuclear-powered generating capacity. ERCOT manages the electric power grid for most of the state and is overseen by the PUC.

Abbott also directed the PUC to require solar- and wind-powered generators to compensate customers for the cost of their unavailability; instruct ERCOT to establish a maintenance schedule for gas, coal and nuclear electric generating plants; and order ERCOT to accelerate the development of transmission projects to improve connectivity between existing and new power plants and areas needing power.

“The objective of these directives is to ensure that all Texans have access to reliable, safe, and affordable power, and that this task is achieved in the quickest possible way,” Abbott said in the letter. “Through clear communication, transparency, and implementation of these critical changes, the PUC and ERCOT can regain the public’s trust, restore ERCOT’s status as a leader in innovation and reliability, and ensure Texans have the reliable electric power they expect and deserve.”

That contrasts with his June 8 declaration that the Republican-controlled Legislature’s reforms “fix all of the flaws” leading to a deadly February blackout. More than 4 million people lost power when temperatures plunged into single digits over Valentine’s Day’s weekend, icing power generators and buckling the state’s electric grid. State officials say they have confirmed at least 151 deaths blamed on the freeze and resulting outages, but the real toll is believed to be higher.

At the time of Abbott’s declaration, energy experts thought the Legislature’s reforms were inadequate.

In his Tuesday letter, Abbott said that while the Legislature had overhauled the ERCOT board of directors, strengthened power plant weatherization requirements and improved communications, more was needed.

“While these laws significantly reform Texas’ energy and electric power market, more can be done to increase power generation capacity and to ensure the reliability of the Texas power grid,” Abbott’s Tuesday letter stated.

The letter presumes that the non-renewable power sources of gas, coal and nuclear provide reliable power. However, less than a week after the declaration, ERCOT issued its second conservation alert in as many months, appealing to power consumers to raise thermostats to 78 degrees and limit the use of electric appliances. ERCOT blamed generating capacity reduced by unscheduled maintenance by those same non-renewable sources.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas urged Texans to conserve power after a large number of power plants unexpectedly shut down in the summer heat on June 14. That warning came after Texas experienced a power crisis in February when many residents across the state were left without electricity during an unprecedented winter storm.

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