Since the February deep freeze in Texas there have been some changes in its energy system. As the state slides into another winter let’s check what’s been happening.

Two Texas laws (HB2586 and SB1281) went into effect because of the winter storm. “HB2586 calls for an annual audit of each independent organization certified for the ERCOT [Electric Reliability Council of Texas] power region. Auditors will look at board members, salaries, budgets and expenses of each organization. Under SB1281, a biennial assessment of the reliability of the ERCOT power grid under extreme weather scenarios will be performed by a certified independent organization.” (Source)

ERCOT webpage

One law adds layers of watchdogs to watch the energy regulators who are supposed to be experts, the regional transmission organization (RTO).

Another law directs that the work of ERCOT – the Texas RTO – be checked to make sure it is doing its work.

Layers of people will make sure professionals do their jobs. Efficient? (And, remember, South Carolina added watchers to watch Santee Cooper.)

Texas’ laws follow the dismal failure of its RTO and the failure of its deregulated “lowest cost no matter the consequence” philosophy of electricity.

That is being re-thought.  A state senator from Amarillo said, “the Austin legislature deregulated the state’s power network in the mid-1990s, but now might consider re-regulating it…” (Source)

Deregulation worked when there was abundant capacity to generate power, which kept prices low. Over time that capacity was consumed and prices went up or power was not reliable.

The richest part of the Texas debrief is an ERCOT report to fix its faltering energy system. The “Roadmap to Improving Grid Reliability” has 60 points. (Some of the points, right.)

The list of 60 is rated with a red, yellow, or green color on each item. Surprisingly, there are zero red items for this state with multiple energy emergencies and hundreds of deaths. What does it take to be urgent?

Many ERCOT action items fall into this bucket – just do your job. No special list is needed for what this RTO should do. Examples from the list:

  • Evaluate ERCOT, Inc. finances and priorities.
  • Review energy delivery procedures….
  • Conduct regular review of cyber security plans…

Texas continues to practice energy folly. The lessons for everyone else – Work for efficient electric systems and customers, not the gloss of politics.


Feature image is from Pflugerville, Texas, just north of Austin, last February.