Texas Lt. Gov. Patrick calls for special session on state power grid
In an editorial by Dallas Morning News Today, Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick called on Governor Greg Abbott to include legislation relating to fixing the state’s increasingly unstable electricity grid in his call for a special session. More specifically, Patrick wants the legislature to tackle the major network problem that it did not address in the ordinary session, namely the obvious shortage of distributable back-up generation capacity.
Patrick, whose office is the de facto state leader in the State Senate, noted that Senate Bill 3, as originally passed in the Senate by an overwhelming majority vote, “included a provision allowing the PUC to bring renewable and thermal energies to the playing field, but stronger language was removed from the bill before final adoption which would have ensured a level playing field. Patrick is asking that this language, which was removed by the House State Affairs Committee, be reinstated.
It should be noted that the lieutenant governor also appears to approve the basics of the plan submitted to the legislature in April by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway for the state to mandate the construction of an additional and dispatchable backup generation capability. In doing so, he takes up the same arguments that I have made in several previous articles on this subject in recent months.
To this end, Patrick says, “Another option is to build a managed capacity market where additional plants are built to provide emergency back-up power. Right now, in the Texas energy market, prices are used to entice investors to build power plants to get online when needed. This model served Texas well for many years, but failed during the winter storm for many reasons as the cost of electricity skyrocketed. To increase our power generation capacity, there would be a small charge on all bills for additional factories to be built as insurance when we need them. Companies would bid to create more capacity, but it has to be affordable and a seamless process that is not suitable for any company. “
Again, SB 3 originally contained language that would have mandated such a plan. But this language, approved by an overwhelming majority by the Texas Senate, was suppressed in committee without ever allowing the entire House to consider it.
With Gov. Abbott and many other top Texas Republicans having gathered in recent weeks around a story claiming the legislature somehow fixed the grid during the regular session, Patrick’s opinion shows that not everyone in Texas GOP is comfortable with this. line of talking points. Anyone who follows Texas politics won’t be surprised that Patrick is the first senior official to break the narrative.
The thing to keep in mind about the Texas grid is that it is 100% a creation of the Texas Republican Party. No Democrat has won a statewide election in the Lone Star State since 1996, and the market has been deregulated and massive wind power development was encouraged by the legislatures of 1999 and 2001. The instabilities on the grid developed from there, and there is no Democratic footprint of any kind on it.
So a political strategy that includes a narrative of “nothing to do here, all is well” with the grid, and hope to get lucky on the completely unpredictable weather conditions in Texas by election day 2022 is a proposition to be made. very high risk for the Texas GOP. A major heat wave in August of this year or next, or another major winter storm in the coming winter that will result in another round of blackouts could go a long way to help Democrats in their biannual efforts to turn Texas blue. So, it is not surprising that some Republicans in Texas are not comfortable with this strategic approach to the network.
In his editorial today, the state’s second-highest elected public official tacitly admits that the network is not, as Governor Abbott said a few weeks ago, “better than it is. never has been ”and which the legislature did not correct during its ordinary session. This throws a major bend in the governor’s apparent desire to avoid including the grid in his call for a special session.
It will be very interesting to see how Governor Abbott reacts in the days to come.