The Texas energy system faces a winter reckoning — again
Beth Garza, a senior fellow at research group R Street Institute and a former manager at ERCOT and Austin Energy, said that this program could be ready “not for this winter, but certainly for next winter.” But many questions remain about how such a program would work, how much it would pay and whether it would be sufficient to keep enough gas plants running to prevent another grid collapse.
One of the biggest problems Texas faces is how to keep its competitive energy market functioning in an era of increased climate uncertainty, without opening the door to another economic disaster like the one that struck last February. The PUCT and ERCOT have released a roadmap with market reform proposals, but it’s not clear how or whether these changes might solve the problem, Garza said.
Both PUCT and ERCOT are also moving slowly because they were “essentially decapitated and reformed,” Garza said. The three PUCT commissioners in place during last February’s energy disaster all retired afterward and have been replaced by four new commissioners, and ERCOT’s chair and four of its 16 board members also departed, including out-of-state members brought on for their electricity industry expertise.
PUCT’s roadmap contains little more than “a perfunctory treatment of the demand side,” Garza said.
“We’ve already been through a catastrophe that’s going to impose billions of dollars of costs on customers over the coming years,” Garza said. “We shouldn’t burden them with additional costs without ensuring there’s some benefit to it.”