Over 7000 Bills Filed; More Post-Uri Grid Reforms

March 12, 2023

I hope you are enjoying the increasing number of spring-like days, and now the additional hour of sunshine.  Here is my latest update from your Texas Capitol.   

No More Legislation – Friday’s Deadline is Behind Us

Friday, March 10th, was the last day for all bills to be filed by legislators, representing a key milestone in the legislative session. We now have over 60 days in the session behind us.  

For the first time ever, over 2500 bills were filed in the Texas Senate, and over 5000 bills were filed in the Texas House – another record. The Texas Legislature meets only once every other year for 140 days, and the Texas Constitution does not allow bills to be voted on for the first 60 days (except those deemed emergency items by the Governor). That’s why with each passing week, there is a growing intensity in the Capitol as members work to make sure their bills are heard in committee, voted out, and moved along in the process. 

Speaking to my colleagues on the floor of the Texas Senate.   Now that all bills are filed, we will be debating and discussing more bills that are up for consideration and passage. You can always follow the proceedings live at https://senate.texas.gov

Keeping Texas Powered:  Major Package of Electricity and Grid Reform Bills Introduced

Those of us entrusted with ensuring that we are prepared for another catastrophic winter event like Uri, or keeping the lights and air conditioning on during blistering August heat, have been diligently considering a number of options to improve the grid and ensure we have the power available when needed.

Thursday in Austin, at a press conference with Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, Senate Business & Commerce Committee Chairman Dr. Charles Schwertner and numerous state senators, we unveiled a package of 9 bills designed to improve grid reliability and resilience.  You can view our press conference at https://senate.texas.gov/av-archive.php (scroll down to “Press Conference: Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, Senator Charles Schwertner, Senator Phil King”).

Last session we took important steps to reform the ERCOT board (the governance structure that oversees the electric market), made changes to the structure of the actual electric market itself, implemented measures to reduce the risk of future grid failures (such as weatherization) and much more. In all, 14 bills were passed with bipartisan support.

Building on last session’s reforms, these new initiatives seek to incentivize the construction of new thermal power plants, which Texas must do to re-level the playing field with renewable generation produced from wind and solar. One of the bills, SB 6, establishes the Texas Energy Insurance Program to provide back-up generation of up to 10,000 MW, enough to power 7.5 million homes.  Additional goals are to take steps to harden our grid and protect against market abuses.

I authored three of the bills in this package. They are:

SB 1287 – Capping Interconnection Costs Passed on to Consumers:
Right now, the transmission and distribution utilities (TDUs) are responsible for connecting generation to the grid and building the substations, lines and poles that deliver the electricity to your home and business (this includes the huge, tall metal towers that transport electricity from where it is created to the distribution lines that then deliver electricity to where it is needed).  Regulated utilities such as Oncor or CenterPoint build this infrastructure and the costs are spread across to all customers.

If you pull out your electric bill, you’ll notice a line item every month to pay for these costs, none of which are borne by the wind or solar facility, or whatever type of generation is built. Consequently, there is no incentive to keep a check on costs that are ultimately paid for by you.

The generator often buys the cheapest land possible and doesn’t have to take into consideration how expensive it will be to connect their facility to our grid.  As an example: last year, one wind generation plant was approved to be built over 13 miles from the nearest interconnection point.  The estimated cost to connect that plant to the grid will be over $51 million, and that cost is passed on to you. This bill is about incentivizing generation facilities, particularly wind and solar, to build closer to existing infrastructure, lower the costs to consumers and making sure electricity gets to your home and business as efficiently as possible.  

SB 1287 simply says that the PUC will set a limit – or allowance – on what consumers will pay for these costs. It sets a cap, and everything above that will be paid by the company building the power facility.  Companies will now be incentivized to consider these costs in the site selection process and dramatically reduce the interconnection costs that are passed on to consumers.   

Currently, all costs for building transmission and distribution lines are borne by the consumers. My proposed legislation, SB 1287, would cap these costs paid by consumers and have companies share in those costs.

SB 2014 – Repeal the Renewable Energy Credit:
In Texas, consumers still pay a direct subsidy to renewable generation facilities for the power they produce. That may have been necessary when this policy was first adopted; at that time, renewable generation was not cost-competitive with traditional thermal generation.  In the infancy of renewable energy, the legislature set a goal of how many megawatts of renewable electricity they wanted to be produced by a certain date.  We have far exceeded that goal, and Texas is the lead wind and solar producer in the country; in fact, our state generates over 25% of the nation’s wind-powered electricity generation.  Renewable generation in ERCOT is now approaching 50,000 MW – and growing. There is no reason that Texas electricity customers should be paying a state subsidy for renewable energy.  My bill would eliminate this subsidy.

SB 2015 – Addressing Dispatchable Energy Goals:
This bill simply requires that beginning in 2024, at least 50% of all the new generation that’s built within ERCOT must be dispatchable, meaning electricity that will turn on regardless of whether the wind’s blowing or the sun’s shining or whatever else may be happening.  It’s “ready to go” electricity as opposed to intermittent energy on the grid.  

On Thursday, I joined Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Dr. Charles Schwertner (Chair of the Business and Commerce Committee) and numerous Senate colleagues where I laid out legislation to ensure the reliability of the Texas electricity grid.

Former Constituents from Wise County Stop By

Throughout my years in the Texas House, it was my honor to represent the people of Wise County. As District 10 Senator I no longer represent them in the legislature, but still have many residents of the county whom I consider friends. Tuesday, March 7 was Wise County Day at the Capitol and I had the chance to visit with community leaders and elected officials who were in town for the day. My friend and colleague, Senator Tan Parker, does a great job of representing the people of Decatur, Bridgeport, Runaway Bay and all communities across the county.  

It was good to see many of my former constituents who were here for “Wise County Day” at the Capitol.

Last week in a meeting of the Senate Education Committee

Saturday night in Brownwood I attended the 17th Annual Buckmasters Brownwood Charity Banquet.   This organization provides kids with terminal illness and disabilities on the opportunity to participate in hunts; these hunts are also provided to Texas Purple Heart Wounded Veterans. Congratulations to the Heart of Texas Buckmasters Chapter for a successful event and to all the sponsors and ranchers who make this happen for deserving participants. Representative Stan Lambert and Representative David Spiller were
present as well.