ERCOT hearings continue into the night as lawmakers demand answers, look for solutions

State News

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas lawmakers from both sides of the aisle will take the first steps to address last week’s power grid failure that left millions of Texans in the dark.

Beginning at 9 a.m. Thursday, hearings will take place both in the Senate and House chambers.

“This was a generational storm,” State Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, said. “We had temperatures we haven’t seen since the 1800s for a long period of time blanket all of Texas and it put the entire system at a very precarious position, so we need to figure out where we need to take systems to prevent this from happening again as well as address the cost issues associated up and down the chain from the producers and generators all the way down to the retail customers.”

In the Senate Chamber, the Committee on Business and Commerce will meet to “examine extreme weather condition preparedness and circumstances that led to the power outages as directed by Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).”

The committee will also take a closer look at the state’s “generator preparedness and performance, utility outage practices, natural gas supply, and the reliability of renewable generation, as well as overall ERCOT system resilience.”

“It needs all hands on deck to find a solution,” Schwertner said. “We’re not going to leave here without finding a solution to this problem and it is job No. 1 right now.”

Over in the House Chamber, the Committees on State Affairs and Energy Resources will hold a joint hearing to “consider the factors that led to statewide electrical blackouts during the recent unprecedented weather event; the response by industry, suppliers, and grid operators; and changes necessary to avoid future power interruptions.”

“I want people to know that we understand that this is a catastrophic event that there are a lot of players involved that need to be held accountable, including the legislature, and that we are going to address this with all the power that we have to do so and will not come out of this legislative session without some fixes to prevent this from happening,” the State Affairs Committee member State Representative Donna Howard, D-Austin, said.

Howard said the fault doesn’t just lie on the electric organizations, but also on the Texas Legislature.

“We can’t just point a finger at ERCOT and think that that’s taking care of it because it’s not,” she said. “That’s just one part of an entire energy system and we have to look at every part of it.”

She and Schwertner want to take a closer look at the electric marketplace.

“We need to make sure that we are looking at how we are paying for energy to be readily available,” she said. “We want the cheapest energy possible, obviously. That makes Texas attractive to business — that’s a good thing, but we can’t do that on the backs of Texans who are actually dying as a result of the system we currently have in place.”

At the hearings, lawmakers will likely hear testimony from ERCOT and the Public Utility Commission of Texas or PUC, as well as Texans affected by the storm.

“The bottom line is we’re going to get to the bottom of it, we’re going to correct it, we’re going to find a way forward for reliable and affordable and also accountable system of electric generation and supply of electricity in Texas,” Schwertner said. “This won’t happen again.”

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April 22 2021 09:00 am