If you’re an avid reader of this blog, you’ve likely been following along as we attempted to analyze the events of the Texas winter storm in February, and what has been done to mitigate this from happening again in the future. If you need a quick refresher, feel free to check out the following links:
- Texas Legislative Session: https://suntexllc.com/texas-legislative-session/
- Weatherization: Money You Spend Now to Save Long Term: https://suntexllc.com/weatherization-money-you-spend-now-to-save-long-term/
- Understanding the Issue: So Why did the Energy Grid Fail? https://suntexllc.com/understanding-the-issue-so-why-did-the-grid-fail/
- Advocacy is the Best Policy: https://suntexllc.com/advocacy-is-the-best-policy/
Having read these posts, as well as a myriad of other news reports from February and the months following, you probably already know two main things: 1) that this winter storm was (hopefully) a once a decade type storm, though the intensity of winter storms, hurricanes, and other weather patterns may continue to intensify as the planet temperature continues to heat up; and 2) that the power outages, and resulting deaths from the winter storms, could have been prevented had the Texas grid been better prepared.
So what’s the government response to this issue?
“Texas natural gas companies will not be “weatherized” for the upcoming winter. Senators say they’re angry over the slow timetable and loopholes that allow the companies to opt out of improvements But those lawmakers OK’d the loophole in the law.” https://www.texastribune.org/2021/09/28/texas-power-grid-loophole/.
Unfortunately, very little is the answer. Weatherizing the grid for winter is expensive, especially when it’s already prepared to handle the extreme heat temperatures we see in the summer time, and thus the major issue Texans face is mitigated since we’re able to keep the air-conditioner on even in the sweltering temps of June, July, and August. However it seems that the price of winterizing that same equipment – which cost over 400 people their lives in February (https://www.forbes.com/sites/jemimamcevoy/2021/05/27/report-finds-hundreds-more-died-in-texas-winter-storm-than-state-says/?sh=7b3a86a352cc) – is just too high of a burden for Texas law makers to bear.
Instead, “some of the legislative moves are targeting renewable energy sources, like wind and solar, which experts and some lawmakers say seems more like a way to protect oil and gas interests than fix problems with the state’s beleaguered power grid” (https://www.texastribune.org/2021/04/19/texas-renewable-energy-oil-gas/).
Senate Bill 3, which was enacted and signed into law in June 2021, reads as follows (as it pertains to natural gas regulation and weatherization, for the full text of the bill, check out the following page, https://capitol.texas.gov/BillLookup/Text.aspx?LegSess=87R&Bill=SB3):
“Sec. 81.073. CRITICAL NATURAL GAS FACILITIES AND ENTITIES. (a) The commission shall collaborate with the Public Utility Commission of Texas to adopt rules to establish a process to designate certain natural gas facilities and entities associated with providing natural gas in this state as critical customers or critical gas suppliers during energy emergencies. (b) The rules must:
(1) establish criteria for designating persons who own or operate a facility under the jurisdiction of the commission under Section 81.051(a) or engage in an activity under the jurisdiction of the commission under Section 81.051(a) who must provide critical customer and critical gas supply information, as defined by the commission, to the entities described by Section 38.074(b)(1), Utilities Code;
(2) consider essential operational elements when defining critical customer designations and critical gas supply information for the purposes of Subdivision (1), including natural gas production, processing, and transportation, related produced water handling and disposal facilities, and the delivery of natural gas to generators of electric energy; and
(3) require that only facilities and entities that are prepared to operate during a weather emergency may be designated as a critical customer under this section.”
Senate bill 3 (SB3) also states:
“(e) The commission may submit additional [subsequent] weather emergency preparedness reports if the commission finds that significant changes to weatherization techniques have occurred or are necessary to protect consumers or vital services, or if there have been changes to statutes or rules relating to weatherization requirements. A report under this subsection must be submitted not later than:
(1) March 1 for a summer weather emergency preparedness report; and
(2) September 1 for a winter weather emergency preparedness report.”
Full text for SB3 here: https://capitol.texas.gov/BillLookup/Text.aspx?LegSess=87R&Bill=SB3
Alas, natural gas and retail energy providers must provide reports on weatherization and energy generation, however there is still no mandate to actually enact said practices to protect the people of Texas. That decision will still be left to appointed individuals to oversee said reports and decide the appropriate course, much like they did in February – hopefully in the future, these appointed people will make a different decision about what’s needed to properly weatherize the grid ahead of any winter storms.
Hopefully you’re in an area deemed “critical” so that you may turn on your heat if temperatures should dip below freezing and remain there for days at a time.
Hopefully, we will not see massive outages and resulting deaths.
Hopefully, someone will do something this time, before it’s too late to do anything at all.