Military and policy experts from across the nation took to the Texas Capitol on Monday to discuss an issue that has been confronting the nation since the 1960s.

Since taking office four years ago, State Sen. Bob Hall (R–Edgewood) has sought to highlight the vulnerabilities facing the nation’s electrical grid system and Texas’ unique ability to lead the way in securing it.

At the Texas Energy Security Summit, the second event Hall has hosted at the Capitol on the subject, the senator renewed his efforts to warn the Texas public of the dire circumstances at hand for continued inaction on hardening the grid.

“Ignoring the threat does not make it go away,” said Hall.

While Hall has previously highlighted the security ramifications of failing to harden the state’s electrical grid, Monday’s event incorporated the economic benefits that would result should Texas take measures to fortify its grid infrastructure. According to Hall, there is an advantage unique to the state that provides it with the ability to act first.

“Texas can serve as a model for the nation because the state has a self-contained electrical grid,” Hall said.

That reality gives the Lone Star State an advantage over other states interested in economic prosperity through energy resiliency.

The military presence at the summit was noticeable. Experts and leaders spoke at length about how attractive Texas could be for military personnel looking to realign assets in the future.

“Ninety percent of the military’s power relies on the civilian grid,” said one panelist.

Hall also outlined how Texas could begin taking steps toward resiliency and reliability, admitting it’s not something that can be done overnight.

“By establishing appropriate standards for energy resiliency and identifying critical infrastructure for immediate hardening of the grid at the state level, the state can ensure a reliable source of power in any scenario,” he said. “Then, communities may prioritize coming into compliance with additional standards.”

Standards include five critical areas: emergency services, communication systems, clean water and sewer services, health care systems, and financial services. Virtually all elements of civilized society fall into one or more of those categories, displaying how far-reaching the effects would be if Americans lost access to electricity.

“Preparation for a resilient state would begin with the creation of a Texas Grid Security Advisory Commission (TGSAC) under the direction of the Texas Department of Emergency Management (TDEM),” Hall said. The Commission would have the ability to oversee the state’s efforts to bring critical grid infrastructure into a place of resiliency. In doing so, Texas can be the first to have the lights back on if they go out, a feat Hall says is very achievable if the state made the effort.

Energy companies and their lobbyists in the halls of the Texas Capitol have been staunchly opposed to such measures in each of the previous two legislative sessions. However, Hall says when his colleagues and the public understand the economic prosperity that would accompany this project, it will be a natural step for the state to take.

“In a best-case scenario, all of the time and effort put into securing the electrical grid will prove to be an exercise in the possible. In any other case, it will prove to be the step that puts Texas at the top when the lights come back on after a catastrophic power outage.”

Destin Sensky

Destin Sensky serves as a Capitol Correspondent for Texas Scorecard covering the Texas Legislature, working to bring Texans the honest and accurate coverage they need to hold their elected officials in Austin accountable.