Energy expert says winter storm bills signed into law fall short

Updated: Jun. 8, 2021 at 6:49 PM CDT
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KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) - Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bills 2 and 3, Texas lawmakers’ response to the February winter storm, into law on Tuesday afternoon.

“Everything that needed to be done was done to fix the power grid in Texas,” Abbott said at a bill signing event in Austin.

Doug Lewin, the president of Stoic Energy, said that “there’s some positive stuff in there,” but the pieces of legislation fall short of answering all of the problems that arose in February.

“If you say half the problem was supply and half the problem was demand, the Legislature didn’t really do anything to address demand,” Lewin said.

“Even if they got the supply side completely right, you’re only getting a 50% solution,” he said.

On the supply side of the energy market, Senate Bill 3 will require electric generators and certain natural gas infrastructure deemed critical to weatherize, but not for a couple of winters down the line.

“You have to have the Electricity Supply Chain Mapping Committee say, ‘This is the part of the gas supply that serves the power industry,” Lewin said.

“Then you have to have the Railroad Commission, which is not a regulatory body that regulates very strongly to begin with, say, ‘Yes this is critical infrastructure,’” he said.

“There probably won’t be anything in place for weatherization of gas supply this winter and maybe not even in advance of next winter,” he said.

Also signed into law is a new statewide emergency alert system for power outages and a mechanism that will give state leaders the power to choose the board of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).

“Our ultimate goal was to make sure that those individuals — those consumers, those constituents — never ever have to deal with this issue ever again,” state Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, said at the bill signing event.

In a separate package of bills, consumers will most likely have to pay a few dollars more per month for the next decade to pay down the debt incurred during the storm.

“There is some benefit to consumers in the sense that that is spread out over a longer period of time, and had they not taken that action, our utility bills would have been outrageous,” Lewin said.

“But that is not the same as direct ratepayer assistance,” he added.

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