Texas Gov. Greg Abbot appointed the first six members to a regulatory body aimed at safeguarding the Texas electricity grid. The Texas Energy Reliability Council (TERC) was given a more prominent role in the wake of February’s Texas winter storm, which left more than 4 million residents without power during extremely cold temperatures.
TERC’s goal is to improve the Texas energy sector’s readiness for energy crises like the one experienced earlier this year. It aims to improve communication between the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the Public Utility Commission (PUC), and the Railroad Commission (RRC). ERCOT is responsible for operating the Texas electricity grid. The RRC oversees oil and natural gas production in the state. The PUC’s task is to introduce guidelines and rules for Texas energy providers and telecommunications companies.
One of the Texas Energy Reliability Council’s key objectives is to “ensure that high priority, human needs are met” in case of the loss of natural gas supplies. These needs include providing power to critical infrastructure such as hospitals, homes, and schools.
Strengthening the Texas Energy Reliability Council was one of the proposals in Senate Bill 3, which Abbott signed into law in June. Another key reform from the bill is that energy producers are required to winterize their facilities. This new rule calls for natural gas power plants, distribution lines, pipelines, and other infrastructure to receive upgrades so they can cope with cold temperatures and storms.
Senate Bill 3 also allows the PUC to create emergency electricity pricing for the wholesale market in a crisis. The PUC’s new power could prevent the kind of sudden price spikes seen in February. During the winter storm, some customers saw their electricity bills skyrocket into the thousands of dollars.
Senate Bill 3 stipulates that a Texas energy provider must supply TERC with any information it requests about a disaster. The public utilities covered by this provision include power generators, transmitters, and distributors. The Texas Energy Reliability Council will use this information to produce a report on the reliability and stability of the Texas power grid every two years. TERC’s first report is scheduled for release in November 2022.