TEXAS, USA — The State’s power grid manager has new marching orders, which will impact how you get electricity and how much you’ll pay for it.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) manages the state’s power grid. It's ERCOT's job to keep the grid balanced and prevent blackouts.
On Thursday, the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) told ERCOT to make sure certain approved electricity market changes are in place by Jan. 1. This includes lowering the max price the State will allow a power company to charge during an emergency as well as all winterization plans.
The max price – value of lost load – was lowered from $9,000 MWh to $5,000. The max $9,000 price was allowed in February during Winter Storm Uri. It left some homeowners with bills they couldn't pay and power companies debt they couldn't cover.
ERCOT must report progress on all Phase 1 items by Jan. 10.
"We can make a difference in Texas in a short amount of time. Great work has been accomplished, but great work is yet to be done," Will McAdams, PUC commissioner, said.
Commissioners also set their Phase 2 in motion. PUC Commissioners told ERCOT to figure out how to create specific reliability standards, such as a guaranteed supply of fuel during extreme cold weather called “firm-fuel.”
The commissioners told PUC staff to work with ERCOT to create standards, plans and incentives for homes and businesses to become more energy efficient.
Some of the plans in Phase 2 will take years for everything to be in place, commissioners said.
"Texans shouldn’t have to worry about whether they can power their lives or power our economy. When they flip the lights on, the lights should come on. These efforts go a long way to ensure that," said Peter Lake, chairman of the PUC.
During the commission hearing, nearly 20 people spoke during public comment. Some represented environmental groups, and some were homeowners and students sharing what happened to them during the storm.
They all wanted the commission to focus on energy efficiency, get more public input and keep costs down for consumers.
"You cannot make a decision on this blueprint until after you hear from the people of Texas. That means conducting multiple hearings across the state. You need to start being accountable to the people of Texas," Shane Johnson, Sierra Club Lonestar Chapter's clean energy organizer, said.
"If you require the people to directly bear the costs of ensuring reliability, then the cost of reliability will not be competitive. If you require energy companies to ensure their reliability as the rest of the U.S. does, reliability costs become competitive," said Craig Nazor, conservation chair of Sierra Club Lonestar Chapter.
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