The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the entity that manages statewide electric power flow, has received much of the blame for the widespread outages, and state leaders, including Gov. Greg Abbott, have called for an investigation of the council. The state's power grid is independent of the two larger interconnected systems that serve most of the U.S. and Canada.
Local leaders representing constituents across the northwest Houston region have also spoken out in statements and interviews with Community Impact Newspaper, explaining what they think went wrong throughout Winter Storm Uri and actions they plan to take to prevent similar disasters in the future.
State Rep. Sam Harless, R-Spring
Harless sent a letter to ERCOT and its board of directors Feb. 17 expressing his constituents’ concerns about challenges with the state’s electricity infrastructure system. He said Texans should be able to depend on this entity, but despite warnings of the winter weather event, officials were not adequately prepared.
“Rolling blackouts and power outages that spread throughout Texas’ power grid in both hot and cold weather would also seem to demonstrate the current administration and oversight board possesses insufficient imagination or resources to properly assess and plan for the capacity needs of our critical electrical infrastructure,” the letter said. “It appears the time for a change in that leadership and our ability to prepare is now.”
State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston
Bettencourt told Community Impact Newspaper he believes there are many benefits to Texas having its own independent power grid but that state officials should have implemented recommendations made following a similar event in 2011 when severe winter weather led to rotating power outages.
“The whole system has to be weatherized to improve reliability. The problem is in the last five to six years especially, all the emphasis has been on wind and solar and not on base power generation, which means coal, gas and nuclear plants,” he said. “We’re going to have to change that mix and that focus. It’s cool that everybody is into wind and solar, but really it leaves us frigid in the winter.”
State Rep. Jon Rosenthal, D-Houston
Rosenthal described the state’s response to Winter Storm Uri as “horrendous,” saying some investment in the infrastructure and planning would have lessened the effects of the storm and improved Texans’ ability to recover from it.
“These steps that we should take, in my opinion, are to improve our preparedness, harden our system, be more robust and also have some reserved capacity—a backup plan,” Rosenthal said. “We’re going to have a number of bills filed along those lines, including suggesting that we connect to the national networks.”
State Rep. Tom Oliverson, R-Cypress
While he has not yet determined whether he would file specific bills in response to the event, Oliverson said identifying and addressing the problem will be high on state leaders’ list of priorities this legislative session, and ERCOT would be under “careful scrutiny.”
“I’m not 100% sure what the best strategy is. I want to hear from the experts, but clearly our grid was unprepared to withstand an extreme cold blast,” he said in a Feb. 19 interview with Community Impact Newspaper.
Other concerns Oliverson mentioned include price gouging by electric providers, the fair processing of insurance claims as residents repair damage and the state’s building standards not taking colder weather into consideration.
State Rep. Mike Schofield, R-Katy
Schofield is encouraging his constituents to tune into upcoming legislative committee hearings where individuals will share factors that contributed to power outages and response.
“Our first priority is to get everyone's power and water back, and ensure that gas stations and groceries stores can be fully stocked and operational to get us back to normal as soon as possible,” he said in a newsletter Feb. 19. “Our next priority is to get to the bottom of the power outages, find out what really happened, and make sure it doesn't happen again.”
State Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands
Toth plans to file legislation that would prevent ERCOT from making repairs with equipment manufactured by foreign competitors, according to a newsletter released Feb. 22. He said in a recent Facebook post he would like to see new leaders serving on the ERCOT board in addition to increased power generation.
“The excess increase needs to come from natural gas, clean coal or nuclear,” he said.