Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bills 2 and 3 into law on June 8, officially establishing sweeping reforms of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas and weatherization of state power generation facilities, effective Sept. 1.
The bills are designed to prevent another extreme weather event from shutting down the Texas power grid similar to what happened during the severe winter storm last February. The storm left millions of houses without power for days and killed an estimated 150 Texas residents, according to a report from the Texas Department State Health Services last updated June 2.
Additionally, these bills create greater accountability within the power system, Abbott said during a press conference.
“The Railroad Commission and ERCOT now must inspect power facilities and failure to weatherize can result in penalties of up to $1 million dollars [per day of noncompliance],” Abbott said. “The power grid integrity is also improved to prevent essential power generating transmission facilities from being shut down by ERCOT like what happened during the storm.”
Under SB 3, the Public Utilities Commission, or PUC, and the Railroad Commission of Texas are tasked with weatherizing infrastructure for all seasons of the year, said state Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, who authored the bill, at the press conference.
“They will put in place appropriate weatherization as they see fit depending upon the location of the facility, whether you’re in the Panhandle or in South Texas, or whether or not you’re [in] a certain type of generation of facility or another,” Schwertner said. “We leave it to the experts to finalize the directive given by this Legislature and signed by the governor as to how to protect our infrastructure that has to do with energy production.”
The bill also improves communication among state agencies and the public. A power outage alert system will notify the public in the event state power supply becomes inadequate to meet demand.
In the same token, SB 2 focuses on reforming ERCOT board leadership. A selection committee will appoint eight of the board members, and all members must be residents of Texas.
Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-Dallas, said the legislation will ensure another catastrophic weather event such as the winter storm will not affect the Texas power grid in the future.
“There is no one sitting or standing here that does not remember that week,” Hancock said. “We don’t want anyone to go through that again. We’re not immune from feeling the hurt and loss of people across Texas. We know it, we feel it, we’ll never forget, but we’re going to move forward with reforms that fix the system."