My Five Cents
A weekly column from Sen. Robert Nichols
Last updated 2/22/2021 at 11:24am
This week has been historic in terms of the severity of the weather across the state. I am praying for the safety of our community and our state.
Here are five things happening around your state:
1. Winter weather cripples Texas
A large winter system blew through Texas this week dropping 6-8 inches of snow and ice in parts of the state and leaving millions without power for days at a time. Freezing temperatures coupled with water and snow on the roads lead to iced out conditions, impassable roads, and multiple, lasting road closures. These conditions led to a shutdown of most businesses, including the state legislature which cancelled all of the scheduled hearings this week. Those hearings will be rescheduled at a later date. Local officials and power suppliers have been working hard to get Texans’ power back online.
The governor announced at a press conference this week that he ordered natural gas producers not to export any natural gas outside of the state until after this crisis is over to allow power generators to continue working. Additionally, he encouraged Texans to start reaching out to plumbers to plan repairs if pipes burst in your home. He encouraged the Board of Plumbing Examiners to grant provisional licenses to out-of-state plumbers and those who have let their license lapse in the past two years.
2. ERCOT and why Texas has its own electric grid
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) runs Texas’ electric grid. ERCOT was formed in 1970 and was tasked with managing grid reliability in accordance with national standards. Importantly, ERCOT is an entity that is unique to Texas as our electric grid is entirely within our borders, so it is not regulated by the federal government. Most of Texas is covered by ERCOT, except for El Paso, northern parts of the panhandle, and parts of Southeast Texas – including the majority of Senate District 3. The ERCOT grid remains beyond federal regulation because it is not under the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s jurisdiction as FERC can only regulate interstate electric transmission. Though Texas’ grid remains independent, it does have ties to other grids including Mexico’s power grid and a few connections to the Eastern Interconnection through Oklahoma. Texas’ grid has its roots in the way electric utilities developed in the early 20th century. Small plants sprouted up throughout Texas as a way to supply power to the cities. They began linking to each other and furthered these connections during WWII to move power from dams along rivers to power factories that were helping with the war effort. These combined efforts formed the Texas Interconnected System, which eventually became ERCOT.
3. Texas ranked #1 exporter for 19th year in a row Texas was ranked the number one exporter of all goods and products in the United States for the
19th year in a row. Texas ended 2020 with $279 billion in export trade, which is more exports than the next three highest ranked states combined, including California, New York, and Louisiana. Texas also ranked number one in exporting technology products for the eighth year in a row. Those exports totaled $44.8 billion. This is just another reason Texas is the number one state for business.
4. Senate Business and Commerce Committee to host hearing on ERCOT, power outages
Due to the failures of the ERCOT system and power outages across the state, Business and Commerce committee chair Senator Kelly Hancock has called a hearing of the Senate Business and Commerce Committee to investigate extreme weather preparedness and circumstances that led to the widespread power outages as directed by ERCOT. The committee will also examine generator preparedness and performance, natural gas supply, the reliability of renewables during this crisis, and overall ERCOT resilience. The committee will meet on February 25th at 9am in, the Capitol building. To tune into this hearing, please visit https://senate.texas.gov/events.php.
5. Best practices during winter storm
During this extreme weather event, it’s important to keep in mind some best practices to ensure the health and safety of you and your community. Keep your thermostat at 68 degrees or lower if possible to conserve energy. Draw your curtains to preserve heat. Try and reduce your electric
footprint by unplugging devices not in use. If you lose power, do not bring in any grills or outdoor cooking devices to heat your home or run your car in your garage. That can cause carbon monoxide poisoning which is a silent killer. Wear loose layers of clothing. Go to a warming shelter if possible. Find those at https://tdem.texas.gov/warm/.