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Weeks After Declaring Mission Accomplished, Abbott Orders Further Changes To Texas Grid

Electrical power lines outside of Odessa on Aug. 21, 2019.
Gabriel C. Pérez
Electrical power lines outside of Odessa on Aug. 21, 2019.

Weeks after saying that “everything that needed to be done was done to fix the power grid in Texas,” Gov. Greg Abbott has ordered the Public Utility Commission of Texas to take steps to overhaul the state’s electric system.

His proposals appear certain to reignite a battle over the future of renewable energy on the Texas grid.

​In a letterto the PUC this week, Abbott said he wants commissioners to encourage the construction and maintenance of coal, gas and nuclear plants. He also asked that regulators impose reliability costs on renewable power like wind and solar.

During this spring’s regular legislative session, the renewable energy industry and its allies in the legislature beat back similar proposals to increase fees on renewables.

Opponents of those proposals call them a giveaway to the fossil fuel industry. They pointed out that failures at natural gas power plants — not renewable generators — have been the main cause of recent instability on the grid, including February's deadly blackouts.

In the letter, Abbott also proposes tighter regulation of when power plants are allowed to shut down for maintenance.

Plants going offline for maintenance have contributed to recent calls for electric conservation in the state.

Finally, the governor is also requesting the PUC speed up building transmission lines to natural gas, coal and nuclear power plants.

The letter comes amid calls that Abbott enact further reforms of the Texas grid in this summer's special legislative session.

While state lawmakers passed a slew of changes to the Texas energy system in this year’s regular session, they did not change the way the state’s deregulated energy market is run.

Many energy experts and others have suggested that electric reliability in the state would be improved by overhauling that market.

Mose Buchele focuses on energy and environmental reporting at KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @mosebuchele.
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