Legislative Accomplishments: Electricity Reform Measures

June 14, 2021

This is my fourth installment on accomplishments in the recent Texas legislative session that adjourned May 31st.  Much good work has been overlooked.  However, there was also much left undone.  So, when I finish this series, I’ll layout some things I believe the Texas Legislature must accomplish in the special sessions coming later this summer and early fall.

Winter Storm Response: Electricity Reform Measures 

After Winter Storm Uri caused catastrophic statewide power outages the focus of the legislative session quickly shifted to the electric power industry.  Over a dozen substantive and complex bills ultimately passed that will be effective September 1, 2021 that cover a range of issues from power generation to transmission and distribution to the retail electricity market.  This included the restructuring of the Public Utility Commission and ERCOT, the entities charged with regulating and operating Texas’ power grid and electricity market.  We also directed the PUC to investigate, study and provide additional data to the Legislature needed in advance of upcoming legislative sessions.

As a member of the State Affairs Committee, I spent weeks post-storm in committee hearings and stakeholder meetings trying to identify the critical reforms necessary to improve the reliability and resiliency of our grid.  (Almost all bills dealing with this crisis passed through our State Affairs Committee.)  I carried and passed four important measures within the Winter Storm Uri response legislative package.  Those measures include: 

1. A streamlining of the process for construction of new transmission lines. This will help eliminate current impediments to power distribution (congestion) and more timely meet the need for expansion of Texas’ power grid (SB 1281);

2. A requirement for the PUC/ERCOT to study apparent distortions in Texas’ electricity market caused by a growing dependence on intermittent electricity generation resources (renewables) (stand alone bill added to SB 3); 

3.  New capabilities for transmission and distribution utilities (TDU’s such as Oncor) with which to provide emergency power during outages and with which to speed power restoration (HB 2483); and 

4. A commercial load management program for TDU’s to help reduce and/or prevent load shedding events such as those that caused the widespread outages (amendment to HB 10 and then added in SB 3).

A partial listing of additional measures passed as a part of Winter Storm Uri response include: 

I’ll continue this series with another installment in just a few days.