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New poll shows Texans aren't happy with power grid progress. What has the PUC done so far?

The Public Utility Commission is working to overhaul the Texas power market to make the power grid more reliable. How much progress have they made?

TEXAS, USA — A University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll of 1,200 registered voters reveals only 18 percent of respondents approved of how state leaders are handling the power grid issue. That poll was conducted in October. 

The Public Utility Commission (PUC) held another meeting to discuss improvements to the grid last Thursday. 6 News looked into how much progress the state was making the following Monday.

On Nov. 4, the PUC signed an "Order Granting Exception" to allow the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) to procure emergency response service intended to be deployed during an energy emergency alert. 

According to the order, the Commission agreed ERCOT must be able to deploy emergency response service before an energy emergency alert is declared to keep the grid reliable. ERCOT had to wait until declaring an energy emergency alert before using emergency response services according to current rules. 

The PUC also requested an assessment of alternative Operating Reserve Demand Curve options from The Brattle Group 

This curve dictates how much power producers are paid depending on the current supply of electricity to the market and and close the grid is to failing to meet it's demand. 

According to a draft of that assessment, shown below, the current ORDC curve will pay a maximum of $9,000 MWh as the grid is less than 2000 MW away from meeting demand. Other suggested price curves would pay more leading up to an emergency situation and would pay less during that emergency situation. Commissioners hope paying more before the state reaches and energy crisis will help avoid that crisis. 

Credit: PUC

Commissioner Lori Cobos told other commissioners last Thursday she would like to see the PUC take action on the ORDC curve by the beginning of next year. 

"I want to stress that I would really like to take action on the ORDC in place by the beginning of January.  I think it is prudent to do so to drive reserves online earlier, especially as some reports out there say we might get colder weather in January," Cobos said.

The PUC will also need to incentivize companies to invest in new power plants in the state but they don't have a solution in place as of yet. PUC Chairman Peter Lake said the above change won't go far enough to meet that goal. 

"There's zero evidence that it drives new investment. Like I said before I think it helps retain existing units (power plants) and helps justify delaying retirement but it certainty nothing anyone is going to build a new business model on or new infrastructure," Lake said.