The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the electricity grid operator for the state that left millions without power during record-low temperatures at the beginning of 2021, is asking customers to reduce their electricity use this week after rising concerns that there could be another wave of outages.
This time, any potential outages would take power away from people in some parts of the state who are seeing temperatures soar over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Unfortunately, it’s not a matter of ‘if’ Texans will lose power this summer. It’s ‘when,” Jason Isaac, Director of Life:Powered at the Texas Public Policy Foundation told The Federalist. “Conservation alerts being issued this early and often doesn’t bode well for the rest of the summer — and they’re more evidence of the systemic weakness in our grid caused by decades of poor policy decisions favoring unreliable sources of electricity.”
In an announcement released on Monday, ERCOT asked its customers to take “simple actions” such as raising their thermostat to “78 degrees or higher,” turning off lights, unplugging anything that is not being used, and “avoiding large appliances like ovens, washing machines, and dryers” to lessen the power grid load after “a significant number of forced generation outages combined with potential record electric use for the month of June has resulted in tight grid conditions.”
Lubbock, Texas, one of the cities seeing temperatures as high as 108 during the day, switched 70 percent of its electricity customers over to ERCOT two weeks ago in the “largest single transfer of customers in the history of the” grid operator. Despite ERCOT’s failure to keep Texans warm during the freak winter storm which resulted in at least 151 deaths, the city chose to continue the 2015 plan to join the power grid once their previous contract expired. The city remained confident in its decision to “allow Lubbock residents to have access to a deregulated power market” even after pushback from residents and state politicians who were concerned about ERCOT’s reliability following the February outages.
The city’s confidence, however, is not tiding over the community which appears to be losing its faith in the switch after the most recent demands from ERCOT. In a letter to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday, the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce urged the Republican administration and legislature to take action to hold ERCOT accountable for its previous mistakes and keep the Texas energy issue on the legislative agenda.
“Monday’s warnings from ERCOT for customers to conserve energy reinforced that there is still work to be done before our state’s grid reaches an acceptable level of reliability,” the letter stated. “On behalf of the Lubbock business community, we respectfully urge you to include additional electric reliability measures on any special session agendas.”
Abbott fell into the crosshairs of multiple groups, communities, and activist organizations on Tuesday for failing to take more action Days before ERCOT’s electricity reduction warning, Abbott signed claimed that “everything that needed to be done was done to fix the power grid in Texas.”
Everything that needed to be done was done to fix the power grid in Texas.
Today, I signed bills into LAW to reform ERCOT & weatherize & improve the reliability of the state's power grid.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) June 8, 2021
In another tweet on that same day, Abbott claimed that “the #txlege passed a long list of reforms & improvements to make the Texas power grid stronger than it has ever been before.” One of the bills limits ERCOT’s board from 15 members to 11 and gives state leaders more input into who sits on the board. The second bill mandates that ERCOT “weatherize their equipment and improves communication during outages with an alert system.”
The #txlege passed a long list of reforms & improvements to make the Texas power grid stronger than it has ever been before.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) June 8, 2021
While these bills were aimed at improving the Texas power grid and ERCOT’s response, Josiah Neeley, the Texas Director of the R-Street Institute, told The Federalist that there are still a lot of questions and discussions left to be had about electricity demand in the Lone Star State.
“There definitely was a lot of stuff that was left unaddressed in that bill, in my opinion,” Neeley said. “There was definitely an element of fighting the last war.”
The questions policymakers and ERCOT should consider, Neeley continued, are how can they motivate people to lower their demand without sacrificing too much.
“You’re kind of asking people out of the goodness of their heart to say, ‘Well, I’ll just be a little inconvenienced by having the thermostat at 78’ or whatever and some people are going to do that, a lot of people are not,” Neeley said. “What you ideally want is something, some sort of incentive in the system.”
“Texans should demand that legislators end energy subsidies that distort markets, increase our tax burdens, and make it harder for reliable generators to succeed,” Isaac said. “Our capacity of reliable thermal power plants has decreased in the last decade while our population and economy have grown significantly. If that trend doesn’t reverse soon, blackouts will be an everyday occurrence — something that would devastate our economy, public health, and quality of life.”