One area where progress has occurred is the registration of natural gas sites as critical infrastructure. According to the Texas Oil and Gas Association (TXOGA), 60 of Texas’ approximately 250,000 natural gas wells were registered as critical infrastructure sites during the 2021 storm. As a result, many natural gas producers lost electricity when energy providers had to cut power to businesses to preserve the grid. In turn, gas-driven power plants experienced shortages, which deepened the energy crisis.
ERCOT reported more than half of Texas’ natural gas supply shut down at the worst point of the storm last February. About 20 percent of these shutdowns were caused by power plants not receiving enough natural gas to operate. More than 4.5 million customers lost power for several days. Some customers on variable electricity rates saw their bills skyrocket.
In December, the TXOGA said that over 1,000 facilities are registered as critical infrastructure. It says this will prevent power from being shut off to natural gas producers during a future energy crisis.
Some regulators remain worried despite the reassurances from industry bodies like the TXOGA. Rich Glick, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, notes that Texas failed to act on warnings before February 2021. The most serious of these warnings came in winter 2011 when the Lone Star State experienced blackouts.
The FERC issued a 2011 report with recommendations for tighter regulations, including weatherization measures. However, regulators in Texas have complete control over the state’s power grid. The FERC has no jurisdiction to enforce its recommendations.
Glick comments, “And somehow, after the report was issued, nothing happened. And so this time I think we need to learn from that experience and say, no, we can’t just rely on voluntary…and assume that these generating facilities are going to winterize on their own. We need to require that.”