ERCOT, state agencies give update on weatherization progress in Texas House hearing

Texas House members on Tuesday received an update from state agencies, ERCOT and organizations representing energy generators on weatherization requirements following the deadly winter storm in 2021. 

With grid operations moving to a reliability structure, the Public Utility Commission says this means more costs. It was a point of concern by some lawmakers about expenses hurting the customer. 

"Is the PUC looking at these bills?" questioned one lawmaker. "And if so, why isn’t there an explanation on these bills of delivery charges? What they are and what the public should know is almost 50% of their bill."

HOUSTON, TEXAS - JUNE 09: An electric generator is seen at the CenterPoint Energy powerplant on June 09, 2022 in Houston, Texas. Power demand in Texas is expected to set new all-time highs as heatwaves surge to levels rarely seen outside of summer, a

"In the meantime, we have been trying to be very communicative with the public about the causes of these cost increases," said Peter Lake with the PUC. "Most importantly, this summer has been very hot. Natural gas prices have doubled and tripled. We are procuring more megawatts as we’re shifting to a reliability-based model. In terms of the cost of our additional efforts, it’s come out to $1.26 per household per month."

Phase two of Senate Bill 3 moves from mandatory weatherization to updates across the power industry, including gas distribution. 

"427,000: that is the number of miles of pipeline just this state has," said Texas Pipeline Association Vice-Chairman Vincent Dicosimo.

One proposal is something called a gas desk. It would require all generators to share their info so that ERCOT knows when a power generator has enough output.

Dicosimo claims it would not improve things. 

"It does not generate another molecule of gas. It would not have prohibited what occurred during Urie. It would not enhance Texas' ability as a standout state for gas production," he said.

Lawmakers are also concerned the PUC process will leave them without a voice. 

Seeing as many lawmakers have support from the oil and gas industry, many questioned if they can veto any possible plan. 

"Would it be adopted contingent on the legislature’s concurrence, or would it be adopted and more just notifying the legislature this is what's going into place?" asked Rep. Tom Craddick (R-Midland). 

"If the feedback from the legislature is that this is an issue that needs to be further deliberated, we won’t implement anything y’all tell us is not satisfactory," Lake said.

Lawmakers want the PUC to make sure their hearing is before the holiday season so that the public can make comments about the proposed model change.