Abbott Signs Bills to Improve Texas Power Grid, Reform ERCOT

Abbott Signs Bills to Improve Texas Power Grid, Reform ERCOT
(L-R) Texas state Rep. Chris Paddie, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, and Texas state Sen. Kelly Hancock show off Senate bills 2 and 3 during a press conference at the State Capitol in Austin, Texas, on June 8, 2021. (Montinique Monroe/Getty Images)
Mimi Nguyen Ly

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed two bills into law on June 8 to weatherize and improve the reliability of the state’s power grid and reform the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the organization that oversees the grid, after a brutal February winter storm left millions without power and killed dozens of people.

“During the winter storm, too many Texans were left without heat or power for days on end, and I immediately made reforming ERCOT and weatherizing the power system emergency items,“ the Republican governor said in a statement. ”We promised not to leave session until we fixed these problems, and I am proud to say that we kept that promise. These laws will improve the reliability of the electric grid and help ensure these problems never happen again.”
SB 2 seeks to significantly reform ERCOT, including by cutting the number of board members from 15 to 11. It also requires all board members to be residents of Texas and eight of the members to be fully independent. The new law also requires that the governor, lieutenant governor, and House speaker each appoint one person to a committee to select ERCOT board members.
SB 3 serves as a sweeping measure to overhaul the Texas power grid, requiring electricity providers operating on the grid—including power companies, natural gas facilities, and transmission facilities—to make their equipment more resistant to extreme weather.
Power lines are seen in Texas City, Texas, on Feb. 19, 2021. (Thomas Shea/AFP via Getty Images)
Power lines are seen in Texas City, Texas, on Feb. 19, 2021. (Thomas Shea/AFP via Getty Images)
“The Texas Railroad Commission and ERCOT will be required to inspect these facilities, and failure to weatherize these facilities can result in a penalty of up to $1 million,” according to Abbott’s office.

The new law requires that electricity providers let their customers know how they can register as “critical” to make sure that people who require electricity to sustain life, for example to power medical devices, don’t have their power shut down.

“Power grid integrity is also improved, to prevent essential power-generating transmission facilities from being shut down by ERCOT like what happened in the storm [in February],” Abbott said of SB 3.

The legislation establishes a new council, the Texas Energy Reliability Council, which will act to improve coordination between state energy and electricity industries during extreme weather emergencies and extended power outages.

The new law also requires that Texans receive an emergency “Power Outage Alert” whenever the power supply may not meet the demand in the state.

Abbott was joined for the bill signing by state Rep. Chris Paddie and state Sens. Kelly Hancock and Charles Schwertner, who are the primary sponsors of the two bills.

“There is now greater accountability in the system than ever before,” Abbott said of the passage of the bills.