Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Congressman introduces bill that would connect Texas’ electrical grid to the rest of the US

Jonathan Sherchand
UT Campus the day of the freeze on Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022.

Congressman Greg Casar introduced a bill this February that would connect the Texas power grid to the rest of the country.

The Connect the Grid Act, which Casar said is co-sponsored by most of the Texas Democratic delegation, comes after power grid failures during the 2021 Winter Storm Uri, leaving people in unsafe conditions, according to a Texas Health and Human Services report.

“Today is the anniversary of the horrific Texas winter storm, Winter Storm Uri. Three years ago today, over 10 million Texans needlessly lost power,” Casar said at a press conference. “Hundreds of people died, and there were these mass power outages that we all knew could have been avoided.”

Casar said connecting the grids would save Texans around $20 billion in the next 13 years. However, if the grids aren’t connected, it could cost Texans $27 billion in extreme weather scenarios.

UT students, such as advertising alumnus Benjamin Castaneda, struggled during the Texas winter storms. He had to commute to work on the icy roads despite canceled classes during Winter Storm Uri. Castaneda said he almost got into a car accident as a result of the weather. During the 2022 winter storm, his East Austin home lost power for a week.

ERCOT supplies 90% of Texas’ power, according to their website, including West Campus. However, regions such as the Panhandle, Southeast Texas and far west Texas receive power from other grids, according to the Texas Almanac website.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee said at the press conference that Texas cities such as El Paso, which are already interconnected to the rest of the country, did not experience mass power outages during Winter Storm Uri.

The ability to import power from another grid would be helpful when Texas is experiencing problems, said Hugh Daigle, petroleum and geosystems engineering associate professor.

“If there is a statewide problem, we really have nowhere to turn to make up for any shortfall in supply,” Daigle said. “It’s not unheard of to have some kind of weather event that affects the entire grid like what we had during Winter Storm Uri three years ago, and so that in itself makes us vulnerable.”

ERCOT said connecting the grids would require more infrastructure to be built, according to a statement in response to the bill. The statement said connecting the grids could benefit Texans during high usage periods like winter storms, but Texans could pay more when ERCOT prices are lower than neighboring areas.

“It’s not just the reliability question,” ERCOT CEO Pablo Vegas said at the Tuesday board of directors meeting. “It’s really a question as to whether it would be the most economic way to improve reliability and resiliency by interconnecting the grid to other grids. Or would the dollars spent be better served and give us better reliability if we were to invest inside of Texas?”

ERCOT is participating in proceedings initiated by the Public Utility Commission of Texas to discuss interconnections with other regions, the statement said.

“We’re interconnected as Americans and that’s why we need to connect the grid,” Casar said.


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