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Tuesday, 20 April 2021 20:43

Texas House Targets Power Grid Flaw that Cut Electricity to Natural Gas Facilities, Worsened February Blackouts

Written by Sami Sparber, The Texas Tribune

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The Texas House on April 19 gave initial approval to a series of bills aimed at preventing another massive power failure, including one that would require state officials to adopt rules designating certain gas facilities as critical during an energy emergency.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the state’s main power grid, ordered utility companies to cut power during the February winter storm because demand was outpacing supply so much that it threatened the entire grid. But when utility companies complied, they shut off electricity to natural gas facilities, preventing them from delivering fuel to power plants.

 

That exacerbated ERCOT’s problems during the storm and exposed a major structural flaw in Texas’ electric grid: Utilities didn't have good lists of what they should consider critical infrastructure, including natural gas facilities---simply because natural gas companies failed to fill out a form or didn’t know the form existed. Currently, there is no requirement for natural gas and other companies that operate crucial parts of the grid to register as “critical.”

 

House Bill 14 would create the Texas Electricity Supply Chain Security and Mapping Committee to designate priority electricity service needs for extreme weather events.

 

“This is establishing a committee that will map the critical infrastructure and force them to be identified so that their electricity is not turned off,” state Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth, who is carrying the legislation, said during the April 19 debate.

 

More than 4.8 million customers in Texas were left without power during the winter storm that plunged large parts of the state into single-digit temperatures. At least 111 people died---more than half of them from hypothermia. 

 

Texas lawmakers are working on several bills aimed at preventing more power outages in extreme weather. Some proposals have drawn criticism for not going far enough to prepare electricity infrastructure for increased risks posed by climate change.

 

The measures the House gave initial approval to April 19 come days after ERCOT asked Texans to conserve power on what was a relatively mild spring day. And experts and company executives are warning that the power grid is at risk of another crisis this summer, when demand for electricity typically peaks as...


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