Abbott orders utility commission to shore up Texas power grid

Philip Jankowski Austin American-Statesman

AUSTIN, Texas — Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday demanded that the Texas Public Utility Commission take immediate action to shore up the state’s troubled electrical grid.

In a letter to the commission, Abbott directed the board to take steps to increase the amount of electricity produced in Texas. Specifically, Abbott told the utility commission to work to provide incentives for the construction and maintenance of natural gas, coal and nuclear power.

Further, Abbott directed his appointees at the utility commission to take aim at wind and solar power, which have been criticized for their perceived unpredictability in producing power, even as failures at natural gas plants played a significant role in power failures during the February freeze and in last month’s conservation call.

Abbott directed the utility commission to begin assessing “reliability costs,” which could take the form of fines, to power plants “that cannot guarantee their own availability, such as wind or solar power,” the letter states.

“When they fail to do so, those generators should shoulder the costs of that failure,” Abbott’s letter states. “Failing to do so creates an uneven playing field between non-renewable and renewable energy generators and creates uncertainty of available generation in” the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT.

Abbott’s letter comes as the Texas Legislature is set to reconvene for a special session this week. It also comes as Texans’ confidence in the state’s independent electric grid has withered following the failures during the recent winter storms and calls last month for conservation from the grid’s operator.