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ERCOT And Public Utility Commission Promise ‘Wholesale Change’ To Texas’ Electricity Market

Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT
Texas Public Utility Commission Chairman Peter Lake and ERCOT interim President and CEO Brad Jones held a press conference on Thursday about the operational changes their organizations are making to improve grid reliability in Texas.

From Texas Standard:

Grid regulators are promising an overhaul to Texas’ electricity market in order to prevent catastrophes like February’s statewide power failure.

Shelby Webb is an energy reporter for the Houston Chronicle. She told Texas Standard that changes to the energy market will incentivize power companies to invest in improvements and even build new power plants to strengthen the grid. She says the Electric Reliability Council of Texas and the Texas Public Utility Commission are planning a “wholesale change” to Texas’ electricity market, including pricing. Neither agency has provided many details yet about those changes.

Some customers worry the changes will mean higher electric bills. Webb says experts tell her price hikes might, indeed, be necessary in order for operators to keep Texas’ grid running efficiently.

The overhaul is intended to shift the electric grid from a “crisis” model – in which operators and investors in Texas’ energy market can make a lot of money when the grid is overtaxed – to a model that leaves enough reserve energy to run smoothly during extreme heat or cold.

That sort of model where you can make just a windfall when grid conditions are tight, that’s sort of what they call the ‘crisis model,’ and that’s what they’re trying to move away from,” Webb said.

It could be months before any meaningful changes are made to the electricity market, Webb says. In the meantime Texans might be expected to conserve energy heading into the hottest time of the year.

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Michael Marks
Caroline Covington is Texas Standard's digital producer/reporter. She joined the team full time after finishing her master's in journalism at the UT J-School. She specializes in mental health reporting, and has a growing interest in data visualization. Before Texas Standard, Caroline was a freelancer for public radio, digital news outlets and podcasts, and produced a podcast pilot for Audible. Prior to journalism, she wrote and edited for marketing teams in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. She has a bachelor's in biology from UC Santa Barbara and a master's in French Studies from NYU.
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