Almost two years have passed since Texas experienced widespread power outages brought on by winter storm Uri, in which at least 250 people died as a result.
After changes related to weatherization were made back in 2021, state legislators are now introducing bills to try and improve the Texas power grid.
Doug Lewin, president of Austin-based Stoic Energy, joins FOX 7 Austin’s John Krinjak to discuss the proposed changes.
JOHN KRINJAK: As a result, everyone is aware that one of the major issues during URI was the PUC’s and ERCOT’s inability to communicate clearly about what was happening. According to what I understand, HB 1500 is a bill that would actually alter how those agencies function and communicate. What would those changes look like?
DOUG LEWIN: HB 1500 is the Sunset Bill, and the Sunset Commission examined the agency from top to bottom. It’s a fairly comprehensive bill. It’s quite lengthy. numerous distinct sections. However, one of the provisions in it states that the PUC can no longer simply order ERCOT verbally to change its pricing at the infamous $9,000 during the ERA, which cost customers many, many billions of dollars. There are numerous other changes in addition to the requirement that those be written out and not just verbal anymore. It’s a fairly extensive bill.
JOHN KRINJAK: Also worth noting is that there were some additional reforms made right after the winter storm. We came across a bill called SB 3 that produced a diagram of the electricity supply chain. I’ve since learned that a new bill specifies who is permitted to view that map. So what exactly is the supply chain map and what is the purpose of the new legislation?
DONALD LEWIN: The Texas Department of Transportation is included in the bill, which I think is fine so that they can see the map of the electricity supply chain. However, I’ve expressed my concerns that I find it to be a little strange. The lack of a legislative exemption to the confidentiality of the electricity supply chain map, which is typically found in other sections of the statute, strikes me as more than a little bizarre. I find it absurd that lawmakers wouldn’t have access to that map because what is shown on the map is what needs to be weatherized. Therefore, it won’t be weatherized if it’s not marked on a map or if there is a gas supply. The PUC and the Railroad Commission, who are literally the final decision-makers who must ensure that occurrences like Uri’s never happened again, are the only ones who are aware of what is on that map. Even if they signed a nondisclosure agreement, they still wouldn’t be able to see the map. Legislators are not permitted to view the winterization requirements. I find that to be absurd.
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JOHN KRINJAK: Therefore, do you think that the audience for this map needs to be increased?
DOUG LEWIN: Without knowing what is necessary for a reliable grid, I don’t see how policy can be created around it. Just that, really. Just. Yeah.
JOHN KRINJAK: John So, as you may have noticed, ERCOT also met this week while these bills were being introduced. Of course, they oversee the state’s power grid. In light of URI, they met on Wednesday to discuss establishing a new reliability standard. Then what does that imply? What exactly are reliability standards, and what are they used for? Changing.
Miranda Willison tweeted that the power grid in the U.S. You can take a look below:
DOUG LEWIN: Due to the fact that the electric utility industry once relied on very large power plants to meet demand, reliability standards used to be fairly simple. Although complicated, it was relatively simple. Due to a number of factors, including the increasingly frequent occurrence of extreme weather, things are much more complicated today. A further is the spread of numerous distributed energy resources. As a result, the system simply appears to be very different from how it did under the previous standards, or what they called a one in ten. The reliability criterion was satisfied if there was only one outage every ten years. In 2011, there was a problem. In 2021, there was a problem. We have a reliable system by the old standards, but nobody accepts that. They are now beginning to consider a standard that takes into account factors such as frequency, length of outages, and magnitude rather than a one-event-every-ten-years approach. What degree of outages are those? It will therefore be very different. Extreme weather will also be examined. They will examine distributed energy resources and how they contribute to reliability. Last but not least, it’s crucial for Austin viewers to consider the state of the distribution system as well as whether there is sufficient supply to meet demand. Because, as Austin residents just learned last month, there might be a supply that can keep up with demand. However, the results and outcome are the same for the customer if your distribution system is down for a long time. Therefore, they must also take those factors into account.
JOHN KRINJAK: We appreciate your assistance and presence, Doug Lewin. We value your help.
DOUG LEWIN: Many thanks.
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