FACT SHEET | Never Again: How to prevent another Texas electricity failure

Texas has more work to do to prevent the kinds of weather-driven blackouts that devastated the state in February 2021.

That is the conclusion of Never Again: How to Prevent Another Major Texas Electricity Failure, a groundbreaking report issued today by five past Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) commissioners and a senior regulatory advisor.

Many factors contributed to the widespread ERCOT grid outages that occurred during the Arctic freeze in February 2021. This outage was a wake-up call about the need to fix multiple policy, operational and planning failures across our state’s electric, water and natural gas systems.  We must address fully the causes of this winter’s weather challenge and prepare to deal with emerging economic, technology and extreme weather realities. 

The Texas Legislature has adopted several statutes to address the problems in the state’s infrastructure systems, and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) have remedial initiatives under way.  More action will be needed.  A group of five past PUCT commissioners and staff have issued a new paper that summarizes their view of the problems that contributed to the outage and offers twenty recommendations to better position Texas for the energy future. 

The recommendations include:

  • Power plant and natural gas system weatherization with rigorous enforcement
  • A clear definition of price gouging for natural gas under emergency conditions
  • Higher energy efficiency building standards and more energy efficiency retrofits to improve insulation, heating and air conditioning
  • More emergency demand response options
  • Directing utilities to sectionalize distribution systems for more granular outage management
  • Backup power systems for critical facilities
  • Better planning and forecasting improvements at ERCOT
  • More funding and staffing for the Public Utility Commission of Texas
  • An independent board of experts for ERCOT with no Texas residency requirement or ongoing political selection
  • Release all findings from all State and federal investigations of the February outage
  • More data collection and public release of electric and gas production and market information.

The team offering these recommendations believes it is time to revise the original ERCOT market and reliability rules they created. The team includes:

  • Pat Wood III (PUCT Chairman 1995-2001, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman 2001-05) is the CEO of Hunt Energy Network, an energy infrastructure firm.
  • Robert W. Gee (PUCT Chairman and Commissioner 1991-97, Asst. Secretary U.S. Department of Energy 1997-2000) is President of Gee Strategies Group.
  • Judy Walsh (PUCT Commissioner 1995-2001) is retired.
  • Brett Perlman (PUCT Commissioner 1999-2003) is the CEO of the Center for Houston’s Future, a non-profit focused on major trends and their impact on the Houston region, now creating an economic development strategy to address the impact of the energy transition and climate change on the Houston region.
  • Becky Klein (PUCT Commissioner and Chairman 2001-04) is Principal of Klein Energy LLC, an energy and water consulting firm, and Founder of the Texas Energy Poverty Research Institute.
  • Alison Silverstein (PUCT advisor 1995-2001, FERC advisor 2001-04) is an independent consultant working on grid reliability, resilience, and the clean energy transition.

READ THE REPORT >>

READ THE NEWS RELEASE >>

The report was funded by a grant from Energy Foundation and the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation.

Quotes from the authors

Pat Wood III

“As we fix what didn’t work right this February, we need to be fully focused on the future.  Perhaps sooner than anywhere else in the world, the future power grid is coming of age in Texas — due to our rich wind, solar and hydrocarbon base and our welcoming open market.  Because of that, we have to get it right.  And with all of us working together, we will.”

Bob Gee

“The world is grappling to understand how Texas – a state with a celebrated electric transmission grid and its vast energy resources in natural gas, wind and solar – allowed this to happen.  With a mass power outage and casualties there can be no mulligans or “do-overs”.  Texas’ leadership and its policymakers need to get this right and restore the confidence its citizens and businesses have a right to expect in their electric system.”

Judy Walsh

“This type of outage must never happen again.  The most important recommendations we offer are that generators must winterize to run, and the gas supply chain must winterize to support power plants and residential gas customers.”

Brett Perlman

“Over a decade ago, after the 2011 blackout, I criticized the stakeholder blame game that followed and suggested that our gas and power system needed significant reform to improve responsibility and accountability for reliability. But Texas failed to make the required reforms and unfortunately but predictably, experienced an even more serious disaster last February. As the energy transition and climate change again raise the stakes for electric, gas and water infrastructure reliability, this time we must fully identify the systemic risks and reform our governing institutions and public policies to address them. 

Becky Klein

“Texas has been a shining example of how market-driven policies can unleash innovation and lower consumer rates.  To sustain our robust growth in Texas, we must focus on how to best incent energy resources that are both clean and reliable.  I have faith our policy makers will develop market incentives to ensure our energy systems are ready for the future.”

Alison Silverstein

“The power system is getting more complicated and is failing in more complicated ways.  We can reduce the odds of the next disastrous Texas outage by being clear-eyed about the challenges and committing to creative solutions that help all Texans.  These solutions must help customers manage electric demand as well as fixing supply and market problems.”

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