PUC creates map of Texas critical resources to prevent major power outages

The people who run the state power grid now have a map locating all the critical resources for keeping the power flowing. They also have contact information in case of emergencies.

This would have been useful before the epic power failure in February last year. But that failure is why it now exists.

Legislation prevents the electricity supply chain map from being shown to the public, citing security reasons.

The map is the first of its kind in the state for use during disaster and emergency preparedness and response.

The Public Utility Commission of Texas says it will update the map twice per year: once before hurricane season and again before winter season.

The 2021 winter storm was a catastrophic weather event many Texans will never forget. Widespread blackouts from multiple power plant failures contributed to at least 210 deaths statewide.

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The disaster revealed a glaring weakness in documentation of the energy supply chain.

"We’re confident the map will be a useful tool as Texas faces future emergency conditions," said Therese Harris with the PUC.

Out of the pyramid of agencies in charge of Texas energy and the power grid, a committee of regulators was ordered to map out all of the essential resources.

On Tuesday, the committee adopted its first-ever electricity supply chain map of critical infrastructure.

The current map has more than 65,000 facilities. Critical infrastructure make up the state’s electricity supply chain, including electric generation plants and the natural gas facilities that supply fuel to power the plants. 

State emergency management officials will use the map during weather emergencies and disasters to pinpoint the location of critical electric and natural gas facilities and emergency contact information for those facilities.

Bud Weinstein is a retired SMU economist and energy expert.

"The idea is, unlike a situation last year when ERCOT didn't know that the gas lines had frozen up. Now, they'll be able to tell if there's a problem with gas transmission," he said.

Weinstein calls the new mapping system a significant improvement.

"Because now the grid regulator, ERCOT, will have some advance warning," he said.

In theory, able to find a solution to a problem with a faulty power plant or gas line hours before millions of Texans are left in the dark.

"That's what this is mainly about to be better prepared," Weinstein said.

The chairman says the next step will be to work with TxDOT to look at roads.

During Uri, there were issues with impassible roads and that caused problems with utility workers being able to get to facilities to do maintenance to get them back up and running quicker.