Harris County to begin exploring alternatives to Texas power grid at Feb. 26 meeting

Most of the electric grid in Texas is managed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which is not linked to other national interconnected systems. (Courtesy Electric Reliability Council of Texas)
Most of the electric grid in Texas is managed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which is not linked to other national interconnected systems. (Courtesy Electric Reliability Council of Texas)

Most of the electric grid in Texas is managed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which is not linked to other national interconnected systems. (Courtesy Electric Reliability Council of Texas)

Editor's Note: Harris County Commissioners Court recessed the Feb. 26 meeting at 10:30 a.m. and will reconvene March 1 at 1 p.m. to discuss the remainder of the Feb. 26 agenda, including winter storm-related items.

Following the winter storm-induced statewide power outages last week that left thousands of Harris County residents without heat for hours amid freezing temperatures, the Harris County Commissioners Court will begin exploring what it would take for Harris County to leave the state's power grid at its Feb. 26 meeting.

As previously reported by Community Impact Newspaper, the Texas power grid is independent of the two larger interconnected systems that serve most of the U.S. and Canada; the state's system is managed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT. This independence, combined with plummeting temperatures throughout the week of Feb. 14-20, left millions of Texans without electric service for days due the failure of portions of the grid and subsequent rolling blackouts that attempted to stabilize the system.

"It is obvious that this is a complete and total failure of the agencies in charge of maintaining our grid and delivering energy to homes—ERCOT and the Public Utility Commission [of Texas]," Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia said in a statement Feb. 16. "These two agencies for which the governor has direct and personal oversight. For that reason, we demand answers from the governor-appointed leaders of these state agencies and Governor Abbott himself."

As investigations of ERCOT called for by Abbott begin this week, Harris County officials are also planning to take matters into their own hands. In a Feb. 22 news release, Garcia announced that he had placed an emergency/supplemental item on the Feb. 26 Commissioners Court agenda to explore "what steps in regard to state statute and electricity infrastructure would need to be taken to remove Harris County from the service area of independent system operators that are primarily governed by the Public Utility Commission of Texas, such as the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (or ERCOT)."

The agenda item reads: "Request by the Commissioner of Precinct 2 for discussion and possible action on steps the county may take to protect the health and safety of Harris County residents by decreasing their reliance on infrastructure overseen by failed state leadership for electricity."

Garcia said the discussion was warranted following years of the inability of state leaders to properly respond to disasters, citing a similar hard freeze that occurred in 2011 as well as plant explosions that occurred in 2013 and in 2020.

"I can't speak for other members of court, but I am concerned with the state's leadership inability to keep promises they have made to their constituents during disasters," Garcia said in a statement Feb. 22. "This agenda item is meant to explore how we in Harris County can take ownership of keeping residents safe, something the state has clearly shown it can't be trusted to do itself."

According to Garcia's press release, one option that may be a possibility for Harris County is joining the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, or MISO, which is an independent system operator and regional transmission organization that several East Texas counties, including Liberty, are in the service area of. According to the release, MISO's regulation and oversight falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, and is in the Eastern Interconnect grid.

"In our region and across our state, millions of people are without power in the midst of dangerously low temperatures," Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis said in a statement Feb. 17. "Many of them are elderly, sick and houseless. This is the direct result of relying on a for-profit, deregulated system for an essential utility. Our state leaders have prioritized profit over people, providing very little oversight over our currently failing electrical grid, and on top of that has done very little this week to aid Texans without power, food and water. The immediate focus of our county will be meeting the needs of the most vulnerable and ensuring that they make it through this crisis, but rest assured that we will also be holding state leaders accountable for leaving Texans out in the cold and pushing to create a system that prioritizes serving people in their time of need."

Also on the Feb. 26 agenda is a request by the Harris County attorney for an executive session item "for discussion and authorization to consider and file friend of the court briefs or other appropriate litigation on behalf of Harris County in cases involved the Electric Reliability Council of Texas and other related entities involving the loss of power in and around Winter Storm URI." Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo has also placed an item on the Feb. 26 agenda for discussion and possible action regarding the winter storm and Harris County's subsequent response.

While it is unclear what action, if any, may be taken by court Feb. 26, Hidalgo called for more accountability in the state's power grid via Twitter Feb. 19.

Precincts 3 and 4 Commissioners Tom Ramsey and Jack Cagle had not released statements on the failure of the state's power grid as of press time Feb. 24.

Harris County commissioners will meet virtually Feb. 26 at 10 a.m., and the meeting will be livestreamed online. To sign up to speak virtually at the meeting during public comment, click here.
By Hannah Zedaker

Editor, Spring/Klein & Lake Houston/Humble/Kingwood

Hannah joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in May 2016 after graduating with a degree in journalism from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. In March 2019, she transitioned to editor of the Spring/Klein edition and later became the editor of both the Spring/Klein and Lake Houston/Humble/Kingwood editions in June 2021. Hannah covers education, local government, transportation, business, real estate development and nonprofits in these communities. Prior to CI, Hannah served as associate editor of The Houstonian, interned with Community Impact Newspaper and spent time writing for the Sam Houston State University College of Fine Arts and Mass Communication and The Huntsville Item.


Six Friendswood citizens were honored in Hope Village's fundraiser. (Haley Morrison/Community Impact Newspaper)
Hope Village honors residents from 12 Houston-area cities in 'Faces of Hope' fundraiser

Nominees received yard signs that were out on lawns for approximately two weeks in July.

A new brewery will soon be opening on Cypress Rosehill Road at the former location of The Shack Burger Resort. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
Misfit Outpost by Fortress BeerWorks coming soon to The Shack in Cypress

The owners of Fortress BeerWorks and Misfit BeerWorks are partnering on a new craft beer venture. The 5-acre site will be family-friendly, dog-friendly and host live music on the weekends.

As variants are isolated and identified, Houston Methodist's Dr. Ian Glass believes the vaccines available can handle identified variants (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
'The vaccines we have are effective against all the variants out there': Houston Methodist's Dr. Ian Glass discusses variants, vaccinations

As Houston Methodist identified its first case of the lambda variant July 19, Dr. Glass believes vaccines can handle known variants.

From left: Luis and MJ Aguilar are set to celebrate the one-year anniversary of LA Home Solutions and Remodeling in Spring on Aug. 8. (Courtesy LA Home Solutions and Remodeling)
LA Home Solutions and Remodeling to celebrate 1-year anniversary in Spring

Located at 6635 Spring Cypress Drive, Spring, LA Home Solutions and Remodeling is a home remodeling company that specializes in design-build complete home remodels, home improvements and custom carpentry.

Peter Lake (left), chair of the Public Utility Commission of Texas, and Brad Jones, interim president and CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, provided an update on state regulators' electric grid redesign efforts in Austin on July 22. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Regulators: Texas electric grid prepared for potentially record-breaking demand next week; 'once-in-a-generation reforms' underway

The heads of the agencies in charge of the Texas electric grid met in Austin on July 22 to provide updates on their grid reform efforts.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo is pleading with residents to be more vigilant, asking all residents to start wearing masks again in indoor settings and asking those who are vaccinated to urge their friends who are not to get the shot. (Screenshot Courtesy Facebook)
Harris County raises coronavirus threat level as Hidalgo asks all residents to mask up indoors

Although those who are vaccinated are very unlikely to end up in the hospital, officials said wearing masks in certain situations could help reduce transmissions to the more susceptible unvaccinated.

Harris County Emergency Services District 11 commissioners received updates on the status of its upcoming ambulances services at a July 22 board meeting. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Harris County Emergency Services District No. 11 commissioners discuss upcoming ambulance service

The district will take over providing emergency medical services across more than 177 square miles of north Harris County, currently being provided by Cypress Creek Emergency Medical Services, on Sept. 1.

Menu items include traditional and boneless chicken wings; hand-breaded chicken tenders; chicken sandwiches; and sides such as beer-battered onion rings, potato wedges and fried pickles. (Courtesy Buffalo Wild Wings)
Buffalo Wild Wings Go now open on Kuykendahl Road in Spring

Smaller than the typical Buffalo Wild Wings sports bar, the new concept offers pickup and delivery service as well as limited indoor seating.

Memorial Hermann has locations throughout the Greater Houston area, including Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center. (Courtesy Memorial Hermann)
Memorial Hermann visiting policies change as COVID-19 cases rise

As of July 21, Memorial Hermann has changed its visitor policy in light of a recent increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the Greater Houston area.

Houston unemployment is above state and national levels, while home sales in the region continue to be strong, according to a July 21 economic update from the Greater Houston Partnership. (Emma Whalen/Community Impact Newspaper)
Unemployment, strong housing sales mark 2021 Houston economy, Greater Houston Partnership says

While Houston job recovery lags due to the pandemic, area home sales are strong, according to the Greater Houston Partnership.

(Courtesy Blushing Ivory Bridal)
The Princess Bridal relocates, renames to Blushing Ivory Bridal in The Woodlands

The business is relocating from Old Town Spring to Oak Ridge Drive and will open Aug. 3.