The legislations made by Texas lawmakers are being criticized, claiming that they are not enough to withstand extreme weather conditions.
Bills have been written to prevent any other massive power failure by both the Texas Senate and the House. Some parts of these proposals are being criticized. People are saying that these measures are not enough to prevent massive power outages. According to them, these proposals would not prepare the electrical infrastructure of Texas for extreme weather conditions like the snowstorm in February. They also think that the Public Utility Commission would be made responsible for implementing some of these upgrades without increasing their funding or resources to actually complete the necessary tasks.
Over 4.8 million people in Texas were left without power during a winter storm. Huge parts of the state experienced single-digit temperature, a kind of weather the state has never experienced and thus is not protected from. This led to the death of at least 111 people, half of whom died from hypothermia.
On Wednesday, a series of standalone bills were approved by the House including legislation mandating the reform of the governance of the state’s grid operator, power plants to prepare for extreme weather, the ban of wholesale index electricity products, the formation of a new disaster electricity committee, and the creation of an emergency alert system.
A State Representative sponsored House Bill 11 which defined temperatures below 10 degrees Fahrenheit for more than a day as extreme weather in winter. It also defines the extreme weather for summer when a heat advisory is issued by the National Weather Service. This bill is both appreciated and criticized. An energy resource professor at the University of Texas claimed that this bill is a step in the right direction as it provides a particular target for industries and regulators to build around. The bill was also opposed by some who stated that this bill would not have required the power plants to be weatherized enough to protect from the February storm. The bill has also been supported by several industry groups.
Under House Bill 12, the Texas Division of Emergency Management is being made responsible for establishing a statewide alert system. This is being done as Texans were never warned by the state about the disaster in the days before the February storm which is why the people were exposed to subfreezing temperatures without any preparation. The legislation also ensures that the alert system created would include other languages than English.
House Bill 10 is set to restructure the board of directors for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.
House Bill 15 would prohibit the selling of products based on wholesale power prices by retail electric providers.
House Bill 13 would create a new committee composed of people from PUC, ERCOT, Texas Division of Emergency Management, and Texas Railroad Commission. This committee would coordinate power utilities and natural gas companies for reliable electric service in a semi-annual meeting.
Even though the House approved the legislation unanimously, they were disappointed that it had not been set in place sooner. If they were set in place before, it would’ve been of help, commented a state representative.
The critics are concerned that this quickly moving legislation would put a burden on the Public Utility Commission which doesn’t have any field inspectors and disbanded its oversight and enforcement division in 2020. Some people believe there is a need for strict requirements which would enforce the PUC to implement the updates and follow standards. Only then can the Utility be trusted to winterize its infrastructure to protect the people of the city from any other extreme weather conditions.