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'We designed this entire grid for Ozzie and Harriet weather,' Texas energy expert says, recommending major changes to lawmakers

On Thursday, Texas lawmakers will question energy executives and ERCOT officials in two public hearings that could last into the night.
Credit: Bob Daemmrich

DALLAS — On Thursday morning, 33 Texas lawmakers will gather at the state capitol to start investigating the deadly power outages that happened last week and how to prevent Texas’ energy infrastructure from failing again.

“We’re going to talk about winterization. What does that mean and how much does that cost,” asked state Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth, in an interview with WFAA on Wednesday.

Goldman chairs the Texas House Committee on Energy Resources, which is one of two committees meeting in that chamber on Thursday.

Executives representing companies that own power plants, transmission lines, retail electric providers, natural gas generation and pipelines, along with ERCOT will testify beginning Thursday morning at 9:00 a.m.

“We’re going to go as long as we need to go ask every single stakeholder the questions that we want to ask. There’s 24 total members on the combined [House] committees and there’s no limit for how many questions a member can ask or no limit on how long a stakeholder is going to be in front of us. We’re going to sit there until every single last question is asked,” Rep. Goldman explained.

He said state lawmakers are also considering how to provide relief for thousands of Texans who are about to receive exorbitant utility bills.

Credit: WFAA
State Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth, chairs the Texas House Committee on Energy Resources.

“There’s no solution yet but there’s ongoing discussion and talk. I was in a meeting today discussing that very thing. The leaders of the state of Texas are certainly aware of it, certainly aware of what’s getting ready to come and we are looking for solutions and talking different people about what those solutions look like,” Rep. Goldman continued.

But the clock is ticking on lawmakers with less than 100 days left in the legislative session.

In a teleconference call with some lawmakers and journalists on Wednesday, energy experts offered a preview of how the state should respond to the energy infrastructure failures.

Alison Silverstein, a Texas-based energy consultant, said the state must prepare for extreme weather events no matter the frequency.

“We designed this entire grid for Ozzie and Harriet weather,” Silverstein said in the call organized by Advanced Power Alliance and Conservative Texans for Energy Innovation.

She suggested lawmakers consider requiring new standards of energy efficiency, ambitious home energy retrofits, better building codes and aggressive investment in community solar and storage.

“All the distribution companies should reexamine – and drastically change the outage management systems,” Silverstein continued. “They didn’t rotate outages because the critical facility blocks [such as hospitals, police stations, etc.] are so large. We need sectionalization outaging to be more surgical.”

Michael Jewell, managing partner of the energy consulting firm Jewell & Associates, said Texas must reconsider increasing connections with other power grids.

“There needs to be conversation on how we can bring in power from far away,” he said.

What are the chances of the legislative session ending without a concrete change to the state’s energy industry?

“Impossible,” Rep. Goldman said. “We will have legislative solutions for the people of Texas. No question in my mind.”

Members of the public can add their own testimony and recommendation to the legislative committee records by clicking here.