Three weeks after Gov. Greg Abbott was publicly taken to task for claiming Texas’ power grid was in “better” shape than ever—despite evidence to the contrary—he has directed a shift in policy away from green energy. However, he didn’t put energy on the agenda in the upcoming special session of the Texas Legislature.
On July 6, Abbott announced four directives he issued to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT)—the agency that manages the state’s power grid.
- “Streamline incentives within the ERCOT market to foster the development and maintenance of adequate and reliable sources of power, like natural gas, coal, and nuclear power.”
- “Allocate reliability costs to generation sources that cannot guarantee their own availability, such as wind and solar power.”
- “Instruct ERCOT to establish a maintenance schedule for natural gas, coal, nuclear, and other non-renewable electricity generators to ensure that there is always an adequate supply of power on the grid to maintain electric service for all Texans.”
- “Order ERCOT to accelerate the development of transmission projects that increase connectivity between existing or new dispatchable generation plants and areas of need.”
“These directives build upon the reforms passed this session to increase power generation capacity & ensure the reliability of the Texas power grid,” Abbott stated. They also mark a shift away from unreliable green energy.
A day later, Abbott released his agenda for the first special session of the Texas Legislature. Energy reform was nowhere on his to-do list for legislators. On June 30, Democrat State Rep. John Bucy III (Cedar Park) said fixing the power grid should be on a special session agenda, and last week, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) called for the governor to have the Texas Legislature take the issue up in a special session, adding that more natural gas plants must be built.
Abbott is expected to call multiple special sessions this year.
Abbott’s ERCOT directives are a reversal from his position nearly a month ago. In early June, while signing legislation supposed to address the February winter blackouts, he claimed, “Everything that needed to be done was done to fix the power grid in Texas.” Three energy policy experts disagreed, telling Texas Scorecard the power grid had too much unreliable green energy and not enough reliable thermal dispatchable energy, such as gas, coal, and nuclear.
On June 22, an opinion piece published by Forbes criticized Abbott for his claims that all was well, pointing out that the grid “continues to show regular signs of growing instability.” The writer of the piece, David Blackmon, outlined that since the February winter blackouts, the grid had not been upgraded or changed, no weatherization of “big power plants or wind turbines or gas pipelines had been done,” no new thermal dispatchable energy generators had been created, and no new transmission lines had been built.
Blackmon also pointed out concerns raised last month that possible power shortages were due in part to wind energy again not meeting expectations.
Texas Scorecard asked Jason Isaac, director of Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Life:Powered project, and Bill Peacock, policy director of the Energy Alliance, for their reactions to Abbott’s recent directives to ERCOT. Life:Powered and the Energy Alliance are public policy firms that study Texas’ electrical grid and the political policies that affect it and consumers.
“We’re grateful for Governor Abbott’s call for the PUC [Public Utility Commission] to place the cost of unreliable electricity on the generators that cause it, instead of on Texans who don’t deserve that burden,” Isaac said in his statement. “This will reverse the artificial advantage created by decades of bad policy decisions that have propped up unreliable renewable energy and instead encourage growth of reliable thermal generation to sustain our growing population and economy.”
“After Texas suffered through widespread blackouts in February, the legislature responded with Senate Bill 3 which was an important first step in making sure Texans have reliable electricity—but it was only a first step,” he said. “Now, the [PUC] must follow through with real reforms that encourage building reliable thermal generation.”
“Taking on renewables is the right thing to do,” Peacock wrote. “But we also have to stop the billions of the dollars of subsidies going to natural gas, coal, and nuclear generators.”
“The competitive Texas electricity market is under attack, with risks and cost being shifted from generators to consumers,” he continued. “The PUC and the Texas Legislature must stop this attack on Texas consumers.”