Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law two bills that address vulnerabilities in the state’s power infrastructure exposed in February when Texas faced a massive electricity generation failure amid a severe winter storm. More than 4.5 million homes and businesses were left without power for several days and at least 151 people were killed directly or indirectly.
At a press conference Tuesday, Abbott introduced Senate Bills 2 and 3 and asserted that “everything that needed to be done was done to fix the power grid in Texas.” Senate Bills 2 and 3 seek to improve the state’s main power grid and change the governance of the agency that operates it.
Senate Bill 2 addresses the governance of ERCOT—the state’s main grid operator—and extends the influence held by lawmakers. The legislation shrinks the number of seats on ERCOT’s board of directors from sixteen to eleven, and eight of these seats will be appointed by a selection committee made up of appointments by the governor, the lieutenant governor and House speaker. The governor will continue to appoint the board members of the Public Utility Commission, which oversees ERCOT. The bill also includes an emergency alert system to warn Texans of weather emergencies and power outages, as well as attempts to stabilize the state’s energy market.
Senate Bill 3 encompasses the “weatherization” of power generators and transmission lines to prepare them for extreme weather, including inspections conducted by the Texas Railroad Commission and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, as well as penalties for inadequacies.
The legislation maintains the state’s leniency toward natural gas fuel companies and will only require weatherization if deemed “critical” by regulators. Other initiatives discussed in the legislative discussion, including direct aid to consumers impacted by the storm, required improvements to customer infrastructure, and funding for backup power generation for critical facilities have also been abandoned.