AUSTIN, Texas – Regulators who oversee the Texas power grid are considering plans aimed at making it more reliable as the coldest months of the year approach.
What to do about the electricity generation and delivery system in Texas has been a topic of debate ever since a winter storm in 2021 crippled the power grid. Millions in the state were left without electricity for days as temperatures dropped to their lowest levels in a decade. More than 200 people died because of what some now call the Great Texas Freeze.
There was plenty of finger-pointing during and after the crisis, but an investigation by federal energy regulators laid the blame on frozen equipment at power plants and natural gas facilities. Investigators also found that more than 20 power plants in Texas did not have any winterization plans despite standards recommending they do so.
The Public Utility Commission of Texas, the agency charged with regulating the state’s power grid, met Thursday to discuss the results of a monthslong study of ways to improve the reliability of the grid.
PUC Chairman Peter Lake said he backs an idea called Performance Credit Mechanism. It would require electric companies to ensure they deliver the power that has been purchased by a customer.
"Our analysis that we published today shows that by implementing a reform like that, we can achieve a ten-times improvement in reliability for little to no additional cost for consumers," Lake said. "It was an outstanding outcome and a remarkable tradeoff for the right payers in Texas."
According to FOX 4 in Dallas, the study commissioned by state regulators recommended a different plan, noting, "implementation of the PCM entails significant risk because of its novelty."
"We recognize that, as many of my colleagues said, Texas is unique and deserves and needs a unique solution," Lake said. "So, we're not going to settle for just the off-the-shelf products. We're going to make sure we get the right product for Texas."
Doug Lewin, an energy consultant who closely follows the commission, told FOX 4 that PCM is a novel idea and worth studying. He said is concerned that the study, which incorporated 40 years of Texas weather data into its models, did not include data from the 2021 storm.
"If they didn't model that, how do we actually know that -- as the chairman asserted today -- it's only a 2% or 3% cost increase in an extreme year?" Lewin asked. "It would almost certainly be higher than that."
Lake said 2021 wasn’t included in the study because of reforms that were implemented to address that situation.
"Don’t expect that to happen again," Lake said.
A report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission found that the Texas power grid would still be vulnerable if another storm like the Great Texas Freeze were to hit this winter.
The plans are open for comment until Dec. 15.