TEXAS, USA — The Public Utility Commission told power generators in October they must complete winter weather emergency preparation measures by Dec. 1 of 2021. The generators were required to send a report to ERCOT saying what had and had not been done, and that report was sent to the PUC 10 days later.
If generators did not send in the reports, or failed to do the work, they could face a fine of up to $1 million a day.
After months of promises, the reports were the first tangible proof that weatherization was in fact happening. Fortunately, according to a new PUC report, nearly all state power generators have sent in reports showing progress.
According to the report, "The vast majority of generation entities timely submitted readiness reports for the Resources under their control. Out of 847 total readiness reports that were required to be submitted, 828 were submitted by the Dec. 1,2021 deadline."
By Dec. 9, the report says, only one company's readiness report was still outstanding.
“I am pleased that the industry is taking seriously our aggressive timelines. This is just one more step to strengthening our grid,” stated PUC Executive Director Thomas Gleeson in a Friday press release.
So does that mean all those power generators are ready for the winter right now? Not yet.
Of the 847 power resources that are represented, 244 have provided a valid reason for not competing all the requirements at this time. Or as the report puts it, "a good cause exception from meeting the tight deadlines set by the PUC." The PUC report said in most cases this means the generators need more time.
"Many of the requests are for extensions of a few weeks to complete weatherizing," the report stated.
That still leaves 603 power resources claiming they have done the weatherization work according to statements from their owners.
ERCOT will not just be taking the owners word for it, however. In a Wednesday news conference, ERCOT Interim President and CEO Brad Jones told reporters ERCOT had created a special work group dedicated to inspecting those generators.
"We have started a group within ERCOT called 'planning and weatherization' to put the focus on weatherization," Jones said. "We've hired into that group about a dozen individuals to perform these inspections and plan these throughout the year and set standards in place."
Jones said inspections had already begun on Dec. 2. He said they would to be looking for multiple improvements at facilities including wind breaks around facilities to project from wind chill, thermal blankets for equipment, and heat tracing equipment to make sure pipes don't freeze among other things. Jones said companies have been cooperative so far.
PUC Chairman Peter Lake, along with Jones, detailed several additional reforms currently underway to ensure a stronger and safer grid in a Wednesday press release:
- ERCOT will continue policies put in place this summer that operate the grid in a conservative manner with an abundance of power reserves.
- ERCOT’s Emergency Response System that allows large electric consumer to curtail their usage under direction from ERCOT can now be used before the grid encounters emergency conditions.
- To protect consumers, the PUC has reduced the cap on high prices that can be charged when supply is tightest, lowering the cap from $9,000 per megawatt/hour (MwH) to $5,000 per MwH.
- Along with the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC), the PUC has adopted a rule to designate natural gas facilities that are critical to the operation of the electric grid.
- PUC rules required the weatherization of power plants in Texas by December 1. This will be verified by ERCOT inspections of power plants.
- Penalties for violating weatherization rules have increased to $1,000,000 per day per violation.
Lake repeatedly told reporters on Wednesday that Texans would not see a repeat of last year.
"We go into this winter knowing that, because of all these changes, the lights wills stay on," Lake said.