The Texas House of Representatives is set to hold a hearing later this month to review what exactly went wrong this week with power outages across the state.
Newly elected House Speaker Dade Phelan requested a joint session of the House State Affairs and Energy Resources committees for Feb. 25. Rep. Donna Howard serves on the State Affairs Committee. She’s an Austin Democrat. Howard told Texas Standard the first order of business this week is restoring power to those who don’t have it. She says doing so involves getting thermal generation plants back online and households continuing to conserve energy to lessen demand.
Political finger-pointing has already begun, as officials argue about the sources of, and solutions to, the outages. Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday on Fox News that frozen wind turbines were to blame for outages. He connected their use to the Green New Deal proposed by some progressive lawmakers. But Texas energy officials have said that failure to winterize power stations, including those powered by fossil fuels, was a factor in the outages.
“We need to be focused on the science and the evidence and the facts,” Howard said. “It doesn’t matter what the politics are here. The fact is that all sources of energy failed to a certain extent, including renewables.”
Howard says the Legislature should address the impact of deregulation on Texas utilities.
The unusual arrangement in which Texas runs its own power grid, via the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, may also come up when the House committees meet. Howard says Texans have been able to obtain energy less expensively than they might have otherwise. But she says changes should be considered.
“We can’t sacrifice the well-being of people for these kind of gains that are actually going to get more difficult to maintain as we deal with climate change,” she said.
Howard says one tool the Legislature has to address issues with ERCOT is through its funding of the Public Utility Commission, which oversees the power grid management agency.