Texas governor says power grid mounted; experts cite problems

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Despite experts who say Texas’ power grid stays weak, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott declared Tuesday that new reforms “fix all of the flaws” that triggered February’s lethal winter blackout that left greater than four million folks with out power in subfreezing climate.

He was joined by Republicans who defended it as a superb deal for shoppers, though they gave no direct monetary aid to households who had been caught with excessive vitality payments or misplaced revenue because the lights and warmth stayed off for days.

Signing into regulation two sweeping overhauls in response to one of many largest power outages in U.S. history, Abbott asserted that he and the GOP-controlled Texas Legislature had delivered following one of many worst crises in his six years as governor. But even members of his personal social gathering say there’s work nonetheless to be completed.

More than four million folks misplaced power when temperatures plunged into single digits over Valentine Day’s weekend, icing power turbines and buckling the state’s electrical grid. State officers say they’ve confirmed not less than 151 deaths blamed on the freeze and ensuing outages, however the true toll is believed to be greater.

“The legislature passed comprehensive reforms to fix all of the flaws that led to the power failure,” Abbott mentioned. He went on so as to add, “Bottom line is that everything that needed to be done was done to fix the power grid in Texas.”

Energy experts disagree, saying that though lawmakers made vital modifications that embody mandates to “weatherize” power vegetation for excessive temperatures and new processes to avert communication failures, the reforms do not go far enough to guarantee the same disaster will not occur once more in certainly one of America’s most booming states.

Among the criticisms are Texas leaving enforcement and key selections over which elements of the state’s oil and gasoline business should now weatherize — and which do not — to regulators who’ve lengthy been accused of being too lax with operators. And final week, 5 former Texas regulators issued a report that mentioned safeguarding the grid requires going past the payments signed by Abbott, together with acknowledging the realities of local weather change — a subject GOP lawmakers didn’t dwell on.

The reforms additionally present no direct monetary aid to shoppers. One proposal that referred to as for giving residents a one-time credit score of $350 didn’t make it into the ultimate invoice.

Some residents noticed big electrical payments as wholesale prices soared during the blackout —- $9,000 per megawatt hour — and others misplaced revenue as a result of they could not get to their job or their work was shut down because of no power. Asked why there was no direct monetary help within the reforms, Republican state Rep. Kelly Hancock mentioned there was within the type of sparing residents from excessive costs to their electrical payments to repay money owed by utilities, spreading it over a long time as a substitute.

Hancock additionally mentioned 98% of Texas prospects had been on fixed-rate plans that did not see costs go up in the course of the storm and that they may store for cheaper plans as soon as their contracts are up. But Doug Lewin, an vitality guide in Austin, mentioned there is no such thing as a assure electrical charges supplied to shoppers will probably be cheaper going ahead.

“If I tell you, ‘Here’s a car for $20,000 but you can spread the payments over six years,’ that’s not the same as the car dealer saying I’ll take $3,000 off the cost,” Lewin said.

Other changes include an overhaul of the governing board of Texas’ power grid and a new emergency alert system.

Republican state Rep. Chris Paddie, a chief architect of the reforms, said he was confident gas suppliers would comply with new weatherization mandates. He also pushed back on criticism that lawmakers went easy on Texas’ powerful oil and gas industry, which he said pushed back on the requirements.

“I wish you would go tell them that,” Paddie mentioned.

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