Girding the Grid: Texas Electric System Gets Overhaul

In the aftermath of last winter's historic freeze and the ensuing mass blackouts across Texas, state lawmakers ordered an overhaul of the power grid. Now, the Public Utility Commission is taking up that overhaul, with a series of public meetings and hearings culminating in a final overhaul plan to be submitted by the end of the year. The latest PUC hearing on the grid redesign is this week, but energy experts across the state are already weighing in on what actions they'd like to see.

Former Texas PUC Senior Advisor and energy consultant Alison Silverstein told a media briefing the issues with the Texas electrical system go beyond just building more power plants. "We need to not have such extreme demand conditions that it creates scarcity and prices go nuts...I think going nuts is a technical term, I'm not sure," she said.

While much of the focus so far has been on overhauling the grid itself, Silverstein would also like to see an overhaul of power efficiency and usage. "Much of Texas' demand spikes are driven by wildly inefficient air conditioners and heaters that get cranked to the max for, in many cases, deeply un-weatherized homes," she told reporters. "So you never get a house cool or a house warm under extreme conditions."

Another expert on the media briefing was Michael Jewell, energy law consultant. He warned that the root problems with the Texas grid are not about power generation, but with planning, management and storage of power supply. "We have lots of capacity and lots of generation resources in the state today," he said. "The problem? Many of them didn't work when we needed them."

"So it's not a market design failure, it is an issue of whether the resources were ready for the weather that we experienced," he continued. "And the answer clearly was no."

Photo: Getty Images North America

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