New law requires ERCOT reforms, Texas power plant weatherization in wake of Uri

AP file photo

Legislation intended to ensure that the Texas power generation system does not have another meltdown as it did this winter was signed by Gov. Greg Abbott.

Abbot’s signature propels Senate Bills 2 and 3 into law to reformer system operator Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). ERCOT and numerous utilities were blamed when about 52 GW of generation capacity went offline during historic Winter Storm Uri this February.

The power generation loss and higher demand forced load shedding in numerous regions of the state, leading to damaged infrastructure and deaths. The then-CEO of ERCOT and numerous utility regulators either resigned or were forced out in the wake of the debacle.

Texas Senate Bills 2 and 3 requires weatherizon of power generation facilities, natural gas plants and transmission to handle extreme weather. The southern region of the U.S. endured a string of freezing and sub-zero days which damaged infrastructure.

“During the winter storm, too many Texans were left without heat or power for days on end, and I immediately made reforming ERCOT and weatherizing the power system emergency items,” said Governor Abbott. “We promised not to leave session until we fixed these problems, and I am proud to say that we kept that promise. These laws will improve the reliability of the electric grid and help ensure these problems never happen again. Thank you to Senators Kelly Hancock and Charles Schwertner and Representative Chris Paddie for your leadership on these important issues.” 

The Texas Railroad Commission and ERCOT will be required to inspect these facilities, and failure to weatherize these facilities can result in a penalty of up to one million dollars. These bills also create a “Power Outage Alert” where Texans will receive an emergency alert whenever the power supply in the state may be inadequate to meet demand.

Additionally, this legislation establishes the Texas Energy Reliability Council to improve coordination between state agencies and industry during extreme weather emergencies and extended power outages. Finally, the legislation makes significant reforms to ERCOT, including having eight fully independent board members of the 11-member board, and requires board members to be residents of Texas. 

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