North Texas Daily

ERCOT’s history of disappointing Texans

ERCOT’s history of disappointing Texans

ERCOT’s history of disappointing Texans
July 01
14:30 2021

In 1935, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt enacted the Federal Power Act, which regulated and oversaw electricity sales that crossed state lines. This was in order to avoid monopolies and price gouging at the hands of big utility companies in the 1920s and 30s.

This led to the creation of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The FERC regulates the prices, sales, transportation and reliability of electricity across state lines.

Aligned with Texas’ values and attitudes of self-sufficiency and freedom, the utility companies in Texas opted out of the national grid to avoid federal regulations on electricity sales. Since the electrical grid in Texas is not electrically connected to any other power grids outside state lines, the sales, transmission and distribution of electricity in Texas are managed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).

Texas is the only state that is not overseen by the FERC.

This has led to issues directly regarding the reliability of Texas’ power grid, as well as the prices of electricity that led to the price gouging that happened early this year during winter storm Uri. It’s the result of years of deregulation and negligence.

The passing of Senate Bill 7 in 1999 eliminated the regulation of electricity prices. Texas then had an abundance of cheap power, and it was believed that the deregulation of prices would only continue to lower prices. This year proved the opposite, leaving some Texans buried in electric bills charging them thousands of dollars after prices increased over 7,400 percent, all of which could have been avoided.

In 2011, Texas was faced with almost identical circumstances when a winter storm in February left millions of Texans without electricity for three days. The electric companies were unable to meet the demand.

While demand for electricity went up due to extremely low temperatures, the equipment was not prepared to handle and efficiently function due to those same extreme low temperatures, according to a report by the Public Utility Commission (PUC) in 2011.

This was the same issue that Texas was faced with in December 1989. It was also exact same issue that the state encountered this past February, and ERCOT knew could it happen again but choose to do nothing about it.

Despite knowing for more than 30 years that the PUC found that our electric grid and its equipment needed to be winterized to withstand extreme weather, they did nothing.

While the PUC can also be partially blamed for only recommending that ERCOT winterize its equipment instead of mandating to do so, Gov. Greg Abbott has signed two bills into law that directly affect ERCOT and the power grid’s infrastructure.

Senate Bill 2 will impact the way ERCOT is managed. ERCOT’s board of directors will go from 16 to 11 members. Eight of the 11 board members will be assigned by a selection committee.

Senate Bill 3 requires that the power grid upgrade its equipment to withstand extreme conditions or “weatherize”. They won’t be required to do so until 2022, leaving the power grid the same way it started this year — unprepared.

Natural disasters and extreme weather are becoming more and more common due to global warming. We don’t know what kind of temperatures to expect this summer, but it is not looking great. Texas almost reached 100 degrees last week, and it is not uncommon that extreme heat like this leads to fatalities.

ERCOT has shown they aren’t willing to prepare for extreme weather. No matter how much time they are given, the same issues continue to arise three decades later the same issues continue to arise. The PUC has also shown us no matter how many times this happens, they aren’t willing to do their job either.

Right now, the best thing that Texans can do is prepare themselves and look for alternatives. One solution could involve legislation that can help reverse global warming.

With global warming, the frequency of natural disasters and extreme weather it is better to prepare before this becomes the norm. After this year’s blackouts and below-freezing temperatures, some North Texans are already doing so.

Texas is the fourth sunniest state in the United States, more attainable than ever before. With federal and state incentives that help homeowners cover labor costs and installation fees, switching to solar is more attainable than before. While homes do remain hooked up to the power grid, households often earn some extra money by selling their extra electricity to the power grid.

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Tania Amador

Tania Amador

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