The measure, which still needs approval by the state’s House of Representatives, would require the owners of all power generators, transmission lines, natural gas facilities and pipelines to protect their facilities against extreme weather or face a penalty of up to $1 million a day.
Nearly half of Texas’s power-plant capacity went down in February after a severe winter storm froze equipment, halted gas supplies and triggered blackouts that left more than 4 million homes and businesses in the dark for days. More than 100 people died during the crisis. In its aftermath, lawmakers have scrambled to address some of the power-system flaws laid bare by the catastrophe.
The bill aims to rein in, albeit modestly, Texas’s laissez-faire approach to electricity markets, which some have argued contributed to the crisis. The state’s power system operates independently from other grids so as to avoid federal oversight, and the market relies almost exclusively on price signals to secure electricity rather than holding supply in reserve for emergencies.
Notably, the measure would ban power providers from offering electricity plans tied to the state’s volatile wholesale power market, a practice that resulted in exorbitant bills for customers during the energy crisis. Griddy, whose customers received bills in the tens of thousands of dollars, declared bankruptcy in the wake of the crisis.
The bill would also change the way that electricity is priced during an emergency — and limit the amount of time any price cap can be in place — to protect utilities from the sky-high bills. It would also require renewable energy sources to have backup plans to provide power at critical periods by purchasing so-called ancillary services.
The measure now heads to the House of Representatives, which is weighing similar legislation. If it’s passed by that chamber, the bill would go to the governor’s desk for signing, and become law.