Exempt yourself

Is it really a regulation if you can just say nope, sorry, no can do?

The Public Utility Commission of Texas approved weatherization standards for electricity generators on Thursday, requiring them to be ready for winter cold by by Dec. 1 but allowing them to seek exemptions if they fail to comply.

Among the new requirements, generators will be required to shelter systems from wind, protect sensors for components vital to cold-weather operations, inspect insulation, establish schedules for testing systems that guard against freezing and improve installation of systems to monitor components vital to cold-weather operations. They’ll also be required to train workers on cold-weather protocols and file winter weather readiness reports.

Power producers can seek exemptions if they fail to comply with any of the measures, even if they never plan to implement some of the requirements. Exemptions would require approval of the PUC, which regulates the state’s utilities, and ERCOT, which manages the state’s power grid.

ERCOT, which is overseen by the PUC, will be required to inspect power generators this winter. Any generator that experiences multiple forced outages will have to hire an engineer to assess weatherization efforts.

PUC Chairman Peter Lake said Thursday that the weatherization rules were the first wave of other, more permanent standards that will be developed and implemented by ERCOT at a later day. The rules approved Thursday will ensure that the grid is ready for the coming winter.

“We’ve got to make sure this is in place by winter,” Lake said. “This makes sure the reliability of grid will be vastly improved this year compared to last year.”


Ed Hirs, an energy fellow at the University of Houston, said the weatherization mandates mirror those recommended — but never enacted — after the 2011 freeze and subsequent power outages. He said they’re also similar to rules set up in the federally regulated grids, which have had more success staying online during severe weather. He cautioned, however, that could take a couple of years before generators across Texas finish weatherization efforts, and some may skip making changes by applying for the so-called good-cause exemption.

“Generation companies are concerned about these mandates and not having the revenue stream to fund it,” Hirs said. “If there’s no progress in that direction, and I don’t think there is, we may see a bunch of them say ‘Hey, we’re not ready, please grant us an exemption.’ ”

Alison Silverstein, an Austin-based energy consultant who worked for the PUC from 1995 to 2001 and with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission from 2001 to 2004, said she doesn’t think the PUC or ERCOT will rubber stamp exemption requests.

That remains to be seen. Like with many other things involving our state government, there’s no benefit of the doubt given the track record and the insistence from Greg Abbott that everything is just fine now. I’d very much like to see some followup reporting in a few months, to see how many exemptions were granted and for what reasons. Maybe this will lead to real improvements, but you’re going to have to show me the facts first.

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10 Responses to Exempt yourself

  1. David Fagan says:

    15 days and counting……

  2. Jules says:

    It’s interesting that Abbott just appointed the CEO of Texas Central High Speed Rail to ERCOT’s board. If that disaster ever does get built, I wonder who will get electricity in a shortage (which would be more likely due to the enormous amount of power the hsr would consume). The hsr or the powerless people?

  3. Joel says:

    Jules: concern troll is concern trolling.

  4. Jules says:

    Shut up Joel

  5. Jules says:


    “ Texas Central’s planned technology will use electricity to run its high-speed rail. The Federal Railroad Administration’s final environmental impact statement points out that “[t]he [p]roject would obtain electricity from the statewide grid, managed by ERCOT, resulting in an overall effect on statewide energy use. Power consumption for the operation of the HSR was estimated…to be 531,867 MWh per year, or 1,814,804 MMBTUs per year, including power losses from transmission and transformers.” This is equivalent to the power used by about 37,689 households per year. ”

  6. policywonqueria says:

    RE: Texas Central RR and Load on Grid

    Whatever the other merits of the project or lack thereof, why would electricity consumption be a problem?

    If there is an electricity supply shortage (and an Emergency Alert declared or about to be declared), the trains could just be stopped. There is no reason the bullet connection should be designated as critical infrastructure since there are other modes of transportation available.

    And “tight grid conditions” can generally be anticipated (plus there are pricing signals via the day-ahead market), so there should be plenty of time to make sure that trains don’t depart from the Houston or Dallas terminal points under peak demand conditions, and thereby avoid having units stuck en route due to loadshed or blackout (and passengers freezing inside in a cold spell or sweating in the summer heat).

    Perhaps the scheduling of train departures (and arrivals) could even be made dynamic to avoid adding to demand in peak-demand periods (and associated surge in MW/h cost) short of EEA alert conditions as an alternative passing on the surge prices to riders in higher fares reflecting the state of demand-supply conditions on the relevant parts of the ERCOT grid at the time of travel.

  7. Jules says:

    Yes, yes, no doubt you are as correct as always, whatever the hell your name is this post. Aguilar will be looking out for the people, not the hsr. Abbott’s next appointment you can admire: fox as henhouse guard.

  8. C.L. says:

    No one gives a shit about the politics associated with any HSR, the disgruntled property owners who don’t want to see a train, or whether the train runs on electricity or passenger fart gas.

    Until Abbott and his ilk get voted, this is what you get from Austin.

  9. Jules says:

    Comments about Abbott and ERCOT are unwelcome on a post about Abbott and ERCOT. Got it.

  10. policywonqueria says:

    Oh, by the way, speedy train aficionados and detractors …

    A couple of weeks ago the Texas Supremes flip-flopped and withdrew their PFR denial of 6/18/2021 and re-instated the landowner’s petition in JAMES FREDRICK MILES v. TEXAS CENTRAL RAILROAD & INFRASTRUCTURE, INC. AND INTEGRATED TEXAS LOGISTICS, INC.

    Not sure this was shared here before.

    There was an unusually large number of friend-of-the-court briefs post-denial. Unusually large N for SCOTX anyhow. Including blatant economic-development advocacy having nothing to do with the eminent domain or statutory construction issues in the case.


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