AUSTIN, Texas - Gov. Greg Abbott is demanding that Texas utility regulators make immediate changes following February’s deadly winter storms. Abbott sent a letter Tuesday to the state’s Public Utility Commission and ERCOT. In it, he lays out a list of immediate actions he wants them to take.
The directives include:
- Streamlining incentives for natural gas, coal and nuclear power generators—a move Abbott says will ensure the state has more power capacity
- Allocating reliability costs to wind and solar electricity generators—essentially penalizing them financially if they fail to produce enough power
- Instructing ERCOT to establish a maintenance schedule for non-renewable power generators
- Ordering ERCOT to fast-track transmission projects to increase connectivity statewide
Abbott’s orders come less than a month after he declared Texas lawmakers had passed adequate laws to fix the state’s power grid in the wake of Februrary’s deadly winter storm. He now says these demands will build upon the bills passed during the legislative session, and will "ensure all Texans have access to reliable, safe, and affordable power."
Some energy experts say these directives will help level the playing field between renewable and non-renewable energy companies.
"Rather than take renewables down, this is an effort in fact to bring natural gas back and level that out to make sure there is base load generation out there," said Bruce Bullock, Director of the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University, in an interview with our sister station in Dallas, KDFW. "It's something we have been calling for for quite some time."
However, other experts claim that by incentivizing providers like natural gas and coal, while potentially punishing wind and solar, the Governor’s move is clearly political.
"The failures of the thermal power plants, the traditional power plants, has really been a problem for Texas this year, but these directives from the Governor seem to be rewarding them and punishing renewables so this feels heavily politicized," said Michael Webber, Professor of Energy Resources at the University of Texas, speaking with KDFW.
Critics argue Abbott is playing into the narrative that renewable sources were mostly to blame for the grid not having power during the winter storm, a claim he had to walk back at the time.
This move from the governor also comes on the heels of a conservation scare last month. It’s unclear exactly what form these changes will take when the PUC adopts them.