Winterizing Texas Power Plants Becomes Major Political Issue After Millions Left In Dark Without Heat
Governor Greg Abbott declared a new legislative emergency: He wants state lawmakers to require the winterization of the state's power system, and for them to provide funding to make it happen.
DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Amid a public backlash over power outages that have left millions of Texans cold and in the dark, Governor Greg Abbott declared a new legislative emergency: He wants state lawmakers to require the winterization of the state’s power system, and for them to provide funding to make it happen.
This has become a major political issue after independent energy experts have said the power plant operators have not done enough to protect their facilities from the extreme cold temperatures Texas is experiencing this week.
During a news conference Thursday morning, ERCOT administrators said the state doesn’t require power plant operators to follow a certain criteria to winterize their generation units, and that it’s not their role to require standards.
ERCOT CEO Bill Magness said, “It’s really the owners of the assets that have to look at winterization, best practices and what are they going to do to prevent issues like this we saw over the last few days. We’re willing to work and help and make sure those are effective. Happy to work with the industry on that, but it’s really not our role to do winterization.”
Magness has said once the ice, snow, and frigid temperatures began pummeling the state, a variety of power plants started going offline one by one, regardless of whether they’re fueled by natural gas, coal, nuclear, wind, or solar energy.
Right now, the power plant operators in Texas must file their emergency operations plans, that include weatherization policies, to the Public Utility Commission of Texas.
ERCOT spot-checks a variety of plants each year and offers best practices according to the PUC.
A federal entity, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, is now considering mandatory standards for power plant operators to follow.
If approved, those facilities would need to comply.
ERCOT administrators said this week’s bitter cold temperatures are far more severe than the most recent bad winter storm, which hit ten years ago.
They said that winter weather event is what they have used to prepare this time.
Magness said, “This one changes the game because it was so much bigger, so much more severe. We’ve seen the impact it’s had. I think as we look at those assessments for the winter season in the future, what we saw with this storm is we haven’t seen anything like this. That certainly goes into our consideration what the risks are.”
Once power plants went offline, Magness said the state no longer had enough plants generating electricity to supply the high demand.
To prevent a catastrophic blackout that would have damaged the power grid and caused weeks or months of outages, ERCOT said it had no other choice but to order rolling outages.
Thursday evening, ERCOT Senior Director of System Operations Dan Woodfin said the generating units that were online in the morning have remained so throughout the day.
But because of the continued extreme cold temperatures and ice, Woodfin said there is a possibility that additional controlled outages could occur.
ERCOT’s Board of Directors will hold a special meeting Wednesday.
On Thursday, a legislative hearing will be held at the state Capitol to discuss the issue.