Have Texas lawmakers done enough to address ERCOT issues? Energy experts weigh in

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AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The Electric Reliability Council of Texas is urging Texans to conserve energy through Friday during peak usage hours between 3 and 7 p.m.

This comes one week after Gov. Greg Abbott and top Republican leaders promised the state’s electric grid would be prepared to handle summer heatwaves, since the legislature passed two bills in response to the February crisis that left millions without power.

Senate Bills 2 and 3 would reform who oversees ERCOT, establish a statewide outage alert system and require power plants to weatherize.

“They were fully prepared to ensure that the power grid is stable, both during the summer as well as winter,” Abbott said last Tuesday at a press conference.

ERCOT’s request for Texans to conserve energy is not uncommon in the summer months, but this week raised alarms with how many power plants went offline for forced outages, different from April’s conservation request for maintenance.

“In April, a planned outage would be maintenance you plan. So getting an oil change, and the forced outage would be, you need to fix it, but you didn’t plan it. So you blow a tire out. But right now, it’s four times as many people blew their tire out,” energy policy advisor Caitlin Smith explained.

There’s no way of knowing what caused those forced outages, at least not yet, but explained it could be linked to the February winter storm.

“You have to wonder if they’re correlated. But it’s not things broke in February, and we’re still fixing them. It would be things broken February, and did that take a toll on us?” Smith said.

With speculation that lawmakers should have done more to fix the grid this legislative session, Smith said SB 2 and SB 3 are both good starts.

“There’s not a lot you can fix in four months,” Smith said. “We addressed everything that caused sort of the financial crisis. And then we addressed everything that caused sort of the reliability crisis.”

She said in the future, lawmakers could also address demand issues, like we’re facing right now.

“You could figure out a way to say, ‘you can’t be using energy right now,’ or ‘we’re going to pay you to stop using energy right now,'” Smith explained.

Environmentalists added they think lawmakers should have done more to invest in renewable resources, since this week’s forced outages are mainly thermal energy or natural gas.

“It’s really a missed opportunity to not have solar panels on those roofs, capturing the sun’s rays and converting them to electricity,” Luke Metzger with Environment Texas explained.

“Texas really has only scratched the surface of our potential for rooftop solar, and that I think was a big missed opportunity this legislative session,” Metzger said.

Metzger said he hopes Abbott realizes these lapses and makes it a priority for legislators in an upcoming special session.

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