Houston — Texas lawmakers advanced during the week ending May 14 eight bills related to the mid-February storm that shut off power for about 4 million customers, with two sent to Gov. Greg Abbot to sign.
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But none of the eight bills addressed key concerns around weatherizing power infrastructure.
One of the bills approved for the governor's signature May 14, House Bill 16, bans the sale of wholesale indexed electricity to residential consumers, which became a big issue when customers of the Griddy retail electricity provider passed on the $9,000/MWh wholesale cost of electricity to customers in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.
ERCOT barred Griddy from the Texas market in late February.
The other bill pending the governor's signature is House Bill 2586, which would require an independent audit of ERCOT to be posted publicly. The bill has been awaiting Abbott's signature since May 12.
The Texas Legislature May 6 approved House Bill 17, which would prohibit a local government from banning an energy service based on the type of resource. This bill would, for example, keep local governments from banning the installation of natural gas distribution lines in a new residential neighborhood.
As of May 14, two bills were pending on the calendars of the two chambers, which could be the next-closest step toward becoming law. House Bill 3648, which requires the designation of certain gas facilities as critical infrastructure during an energy emergency, is pending on the Senate calendar, while Senate Bill 2154, which increases the Public Utility Commission's membership to five from three, is on the House calendar.
As of May 14, the Texas House of Representatives had on its calendar House Bill 3916, removing restrictions on distributed generation in ERCOT, but this bill also must pass the Senate before the governor can sign it into law.
Three other bills that passed through one chamber remain pending action in the opposite chamber. House Bill 1520, securitizing — i.e. issuing bonds for — excess gas costs from the storm, and House Bill 4492, securitizing excess electricity costs from the storm, have been in Senate committees since May 14. Senate Bill 1606, which creates the Texas Grid Security Commission to identify and harden critical grid infrastructure, is awaiting action in the House State Affairs Committee.
A variety of topics
Most of the remaining bills pending in the Texas Legislature can be placed in seven categories:
- Six require the establishment of emergency reserve power generation capacity.
- Four other bills provide some form of securitization of electric or gas costs, which may be moot because of HB 1520 and HB 4492.
- Four focus on weatherization of electric and gas facilities, but one of the securitization bills also fund weatherization.
- Two bills focus on identifying critical infrastructure in the electricity supply chain and protecting that infrastructure from power outages.
- Two bills change the qualifications and process of filling seats on the Electric Reliability Council of Texas Board of Directors.
- Two bills establish a statewide disaster alert system.
- Two bills facilitate utilities contracting for battery storage.
Senate Bill 1252 would require an independent audit of ERCOT to be released publicly, which is effectively moot because both chambers already passed House bill 2586.
Another bill that is likely moot is Senate Bill 2142, which would require wholesale power repricing from Feb. 18 through 9 am Feb. 19, when ERCOT was under emergency alert but not in rotating blackouts, which is likely procedurally barred from enactment. During that period, wholesale power prices were at the $9,000/MWh systemwide offer cap.
The deadline for moving that Senate-passed bill through the House process has passed.