With millions of Texans suffering from power outages in subfreezing weather, Gov. Greg Abbott is calling on the state Legislature to investigate the state’s electric system and “ensure Texans never again experience power outages on the scale they have seen over the past several days.”
Texas is unique in that most of the state—nearly 90 percent—is covered by its own electrical grid, governed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.
But over the past few days, that grid has been pushed to the limits as power plants have been taken offline due to the deep freeze covering the state.
“The Electric Reliability Council of Texas has been anything but reliable over the past 48 hours,” said Abbott. “Far too many Texans are without power and heat for their homes as our state faces freezing temperatures and severe winter weather. This is unacceptable.”
But while Abbott’s announcement comes this week as millions are without power, other lawmakers have been working on the issue for years.
State Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R–Arlington) has repeatedly filed bills to strengthen the state’s electric power transmission and distribution system, a proposal that has so far failed to reach the floor of the House for a vote.
He says this week’s failures underscore the importance of his proposed legislation, House Bill 1731.
“We need to harden and strengthen our power grid. Power is a key piece of infrastructure, which is indeed a key role of government, like transportation,” Tinderholt told Texas Scorecard, adding that the Legislature, power companies, and individuals must all take a role.
This week’s “rolling blackouts,” have left many without power for days—including Tinderholt. He says the failure has been brought on by a combination of reliance on alternative sources of energy, a growing population, and pushback from power companies on reform.
“Every time I author this bill, they push back on wanting to secure or protect the power grid and make it stronger,” said Tinderholt.
“The power companies have a serious responsibility to do what’s right. They are a vendor to all of us, and there is a certain responsibility that comes with being a vendor on a key piece of infrastructure. We have elderly people and babies right now struggling to stay warm.”
“The power companies need to step up to the plate and participate in the bill,” he added.
Ahead of Abbott’s announcement making ERCOT reform an emergency priority for the state Legislature, House Speaker Dade Phelan called for the House State Affairs Committee and Energy Resources Committee to hold a joint investigative hearing.
Tinderholt says he and State Sen. Bob Hall (R–Edgewood)—who has also repeatedly filed similar legislation to protect and strengthen the electric grid—need to be involved in the hearings.
“I think he and I definitely need to be involved in this, but I also think the power companies and ERCOT need to come,” said Tinderholt. “The Public Utility Commission needs to come. Republicans, Democrats, I don’t care what party you are. Our people across Texas are struggling right now, and we need to fix this thing together.”