Two representatives in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas held a press conference on Wednesday to discuss the changes their organizations have made to improve the electricity grid reliability for the winter.
“The ERCOT grid is stronger and more reliable than ever,” Chairman of the Public Utility Commission of Texas Peter Lake said. “We go into this winter knowing that because of all these efforts, the lights will stay on.”
According to Lake, for the first time ever, the PUC is requiring energy companies to winterize their power plants and if they fail to comply could face a fine of up to $1,000,000 each day for each violation.
Furthermore, according to ERCOT Interim CEO Brad Jones, ERCOT has already inspected 55 power plants across the state and is planning to inspect even more in the next couple of weeks.
“We intend to inspect over 300 generating units and some 50 or rather I should say 21 transmission providers,” Jones said. “Those inspections will comprise 85 percent of the lost megawatt hours during the storm.”
Jones also said ERCOT inspectors will be examining power plants to see if the energy providers have taken the necessary steps to ensure efficiency.
“For example, have they put windbreaks around the right facilities to make sure that a windchill doesn’t cause some problems with equipment?” he said. “Have they put thermal blankets on the right type of equipment to make sure those thermal blankets keep those facilities warm? Have they appropriately set heat tracing in place so that pipes don’t freeze up during cold weather?”
Additionally, according to Lake, in light of an emergency, the top state energy agencies and organizations including ERCOT, PUC, the Railroad Commission, the Texas Department of Transportation, and the Texas Commission on Environmental Equality will be required to work “shoulder to shoulder” at the state operation center.
“That has never happened before and as you can imagine [it] is a dramatic improvement in our emergency response and management capabilities,” Lake said.
This press conference comes after a report in November showed that the electricity grid is still at risk of failing Texans if extreme weather conditions hit the state.
Even though Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bills 2 and 3 into law in June to address the power grid crisis, many critics of the law have emphasized the loophole in the bill which gives energy providers the option to opt out of being considered critical infrastructure.
Equally important, Abbott’s interest in regulating the grid remains in question after reports showed his campaign was awarded a $1 million check after the tragic Winter Storm Uri. As many Texans remember, the February winter storm knocked out the energy grid and left many Texans without power, water, and heat for days. According to reports, this led to the deaths of 700 Texans.