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New laws in Texas aim to prevent repeat of winter storm blackouts but are they enough?

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Christopher Neely's picture
Independent, Local News Organization

Journalist for nearly a decade with keen interest in local energy policies for cities and national efforts to facilitate a renewable revolution. 

  • Member since 2017
  • 755 items added with 372,997 views
  • Sep 21, 2021
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What we saw in Texas in February was a perfect storm of sorts—an unprecedented winter storm that crushed much of the state, steady sub-freezing temperatures that lasted a week and demands for power so high that several key power plants went offline, further reducing supply. 

Earlier this month, new laws took effect that the state's legislature passed aimed at preventing such blackouts. The first was rather political: all directors of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the board which oversees power distribution in the state, must live in Texas. It was discovered during the storms that several of the board members did not live in Texas nor had much stake in the state. 

The other bill mandated the winterization of the state's power plants, something that was previously encouraged but never mandated with any teeth. Now there is some teeth, but with a state as large as Texas, it will be years before regulators can inspect every plant for proof of winterization.

Is this enough? While the winterization law is an interesting acknowledgment, especially from Texas lawmakers, on the impacts of a changing climate, Texas could have done more to set itself up for an overload in demand during intense weather events. Just this summer, ERCOT asked customers across the state to reduce energy use lest they wind up in the same situation as the winter, just with different weather. If Texas really wanted to beef up its resiliency to exaggerated demand, they might have looked an interstate deal to hook up with neighboring powering systems, only to be used in emergencies. Or, perhaps looked at funding grid resiliency efforts, such as incentivizing distributed energy resources or the like. 

However, this is Texas, and are only going to operate within the narrow limits of avoiding overregulation. More winter storms like February's are ahead. We will see how many it takes before Texas considers changing its ways.  

 

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