HOUSTON – After the winter storm emergency that killed more than 200 people in February, power companies are facing a December deadline to submit plans for this upcoming winter.
In October, The Public Utility Commission of Texas adopted a new rule setting requirements for power generators and suppliers.
The series of winterization steps were first recommended 10 years ago after the 2011 winter storm.
The reports must be turned in to ERCOT by Dec. 1, 20 days before the official start of winter.
But some critics say neither plans nor the deadline will make an immediate difference in preventing a repeat of the failures during winter storm Uri.
“This winter, if we have another bad storm, I think we should be worried. We expected them to do everything they could for us this winter,” said Adrian Shelley, Texas director of Public Citizen, a non-profit watchdog and consumer advocacy group.
Shelley said the requirements set by PUC don’t go far enough.
“The biggest concern is that PUC is not going to require power companies to ensure that their power supply, the gas that keeps the power plant running, is weatherized itself. The plans don’t guarantee they will operate, and PUC isn’t going to punish anybody who doesn’t operate,” he said.
Public Citizen and others also question whether any of the requirements will be enforced.
“The mechanisms for control and compliance are only as effective as the enforcement, and then, of course, penalties that are assessed. Most of our generating facilities are on the good faith and honor code system, but this requires investments in money and time that are not necessarily a priority when you want to maximize profits,” said Dietrich von Biedenfeld, an assistant professor at UH-Downtown who teaches energy management and energy law.
Von Biedenfeld said companies have through 2023 to fully increase the resilience of their facilities and transmission lines.
PUC issued the following statement to KPRC 2:
“Dec. 1 is the deadline for electric generators and transmission providers to have completed preparing for winter weather. These entities have to file a report with ERCOT detailing their compliance with each aspect of the new PUC winter weather preparedness rules. ERCOT and PUC staff will review each of the approximately 900 reports to be filed on Dec. 1st. ERCOT inspectors will then independently examine specific power plants and transmission facilities in the field throughout the month of December. On Dec. 10, ERCOT will file a public report addressing compliance with the Dec. 1 reporting deadline.”