The opening bid on power outage response

Not bad, but there’s a long way to go and not a lot of detail just yet.

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan on Monday announced seven priority bills responding to the winter weather crisis last month that left millions of Texans without power.

The proposals include overhauling the governance of the state’s electric grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas; mandating “weatherization” of power facilities and establishing a statewide disaster alert system. There is also legislation to ban variable-rate electricity pricing plans such as were offered by the company Griddy, which was recently effectively shut down in the state after customers were hit with bills in the thousands of dollars.

Phelan’s office called the proposals the “first phase” of the House’s proposed reforms in the wake of the winter storm. Not all the bills have been filed yet, so the specifics of some proposals have not yet been made public.

“We must take accountability, close critical gaps in our system, and prevent these breakdowns from ever happening again,” Phelan, a Republican, said in a statement.


House Bill 10, for instance, aims to reform ERCOT by restructuring its board. The legislation would replace the board’s “unaffiliated” members with members appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker. The bill would also mandate that all board members live in Texas. And it would add a new board member to “represent consumer interests,” according to Phelan’s office.

Some other ideas could prove challenging. House Bill 11, for instance, would order the Public Utilities Commission to require power generators to implement measures to avoid service outages during extreme weather events, including winter storms and heat waves. But retroactively equipping power plants and the state’s energy system to withstand cold temperatures is likely to be difficult and costly, energy experts have said. Building energy infrastructure that from the start is designed to perform in winter conditions is easier and cheaper, they have said.

Phelan’s office described another bill, House Bill 14, which hasn’t yet been filed, that would require the Railroad Commission of Texas to require pipeline operators to update their equipment to ensure reliability during extreme weather. It’s unclear how much either bill would cost the state or the power generators. Abbott has indicated in the past that he is interested in funding at least some of the weatherization.

These fall under the emergency items declared by Abbott, so they can be taken up ahead of other legislation. Once they’re written and filed, of course. I don’t have any immediate complaints – the general direction is good, and they seem to have hit the high points – but it’s very early in the process, and there will be plenty of opportunity for shenanigans and just plan resistance, so as always we will have to keep an eye on it. The pushback from the energy industry seems to be that the power outages themselves were the main driver of the natural gas shortage, not the wells and pipes freezing up. There’s probably something to that, but I’m sure you’ll understand if I decline to take their word for it. At least three of the bills will be carried by Democrats – Reps. Richard Raymond, Ana Hernandez, and Joe Deshotel. We’ll see what we get, and we should very much remember that a lot of this is about undoing or at least mitigating the effects of Republican deregulation, but this is a decent start.

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21 Responses to The opening bid on power outage response

  1. Bill Daniels says:

    “The pushback from the energy industry seems to be that the power outages themselves were the main driver of the natural gas shortage, not the wells and pipes freezing up. There’s probably something to that….”

    Yes, there is something to that. In the old days, most compressor stations, the points on natural gas pipelines that keep the gas flowing, were, surprise surprise, gas fired. They used some of the natural gas that flowed through the compressor stations to provide the power to push the gas through the pipe, down the line.

    The greenie environmentalists thought it better that those compressor stations run on all electric power, so……no electricity, no gas flowing. I’d call that law of unintended consequences type failure. If the compressor stations were running full tilt, we wouldn’t have run short on natural gas. So if we’re assigning blame, there’s some to go all around.

  2. SocraticGadfly says:

    Bill, I’m sure that “greenie environmentalists” didn’t mandate any such changes. Besides, even in the O&G world, power for a lot of smaller field-level controls is supplied by small on-site solar panels.

    Otherwise, per the story, I think you too are avoiding talking about weatherization.

  3. mollusk says:

    “Building energy infrastructure that from the start is designed to perform in winter conditions is easier and cheaper…” Yeah, duh, news to the world – building things right the first time costs more than cutting corners but less than fixing the problem later. But you didn’t, Blanche. That doesn’t do away with the need to fix things.

  4. Bill Daniels says:


    I agree that there are solar panel/battery combos that are used to operate scada and other low energy draw field controls, especially in remote areas where it would be extremely costly to run lines from the grid. What’s your point? I have an emergency radio equipped with a small solar panel and rechargeable battery. That doesn’t mean I’d have a solar array to run a 100,000 Watt radio station.

    “Environmental Impact and the EPA

    In 2016, the EPA issued a STRONG RECOMMENDATION that pipeline operators convert to electric compressors throughout their operations to reduce gas losses. The report cited gas compressors as epic producers of greenhouse gases, particularly methane, from leaks and lost gas — with a single compressor spewing out an average of 6,650 million cubic meters of greenhouse gases per year into the atmosphere.”

    Note: Bold emphasis mine. I also stand corrected……strong recommendation isn’t the same as mandate, although one could make the argument that defying the will of the EPA is asking for trouble, in the same way that declining to make a regular contribution to the Mob’s benevolent fund, as a shopkeeper, despite the Mob’s strong recommendation that they should, indeed, pay, might be asking for trouble.

  5. Manny says:

    The fascists will always create a scenario that suits their baseless claims.

    When have the greenies run Texas? Never, it is the fascists aka Republicans that make those decisions.

    Let us put the blame where the blame goes on the fascists/Republicans.

    The shifting sand Bill Daniels equates something being EPA approved as it has to be done that way.

    I will give you an opportunity to prove that using the method you described was the greenie’s fault, Bill.

    You are semi-correct about it not being a mandate but then go on with an assumption that has no basis. That is was fascists do.

    In 2015 an article has the following;

    “Twenty-one. That’s the number of times the state of Texas has sued the Environmental Protection Agency since President Obama took office in 2009. No one is going to tell us what we can and can’t do to our planet, especially not the federal government.”

    Go to your fascist’s websites, Bill. Where your stupidity will impress the ignorant.

  6. SocraticGadfly says:


    First, the EPA is NOT “environmental greenies.” You’re a wingnut indeed if you believe that.

    Second, the reason for the recommendation is true.

    Second, part two: The EPA also recommended it for longer-term capitalist cost-saving reasons. #BOOM

    Third, per your “strongly recommend,” how many Texas pipeline operators actually did that? Slim? Or none?

  7. Bill Daniels says:

    Well, here’s a Bloomberg article about what happened, re: pipeline compressor stations shutting down in Texas;

    “A crucial part of the natural gas system was knocked out by the power outages: compressor stations that help keep gas flowing through pipelines.

    As Ercot started asking utilities to prompt big customers to reduce consumption Sunday evening, those stations went down and the pressure across multiple gas pipelines started to drop, ultimately tripping some utilities off line because of lack of fuel.

    That, in turn, led some areas of the Eagle Ford shale and the Permian to simply turn off gas production completely.”

    Bloomberg doesn’t give the actual number of natural gas compressor stations that went offline when they lost electricity, but it obviously was a significant number of them, to cause such disruption. We know multiple pipelines were effected by the lack of power, so I would assume that at least 3 pipelines, probably more, had electric compressor stations go down because of no electricity.

  8. Flypusher says:

    The solution to this is obvious, at least from the science/engineering standpoint. We’ve known for at least 10 years what needed to be done. Various elements of the system needed to be winterized. We needed to have reserve capacity for emergencies. The problem is, as it almost always is, toxic, reality-denying politics. The fact that our current freewheeling, “maximum choice”, we-don’t-need-no-stinkin’-regs system produces such a strong disincentive to do what is needed means it’s time for some of the dreaded “R-word”. I don’t gave a damn whether the Feds do it or the State does it, as long as the energy playing field gets shifted to where it needs to be.

    This is the last chance for the TX GOP to show that they are actually capable of governing. Given their track record, my expectations are low, but they are welcome to prove me wrong. They claim economics is their bread and butter issue. You can yell as loud as you want that TX is great for business because of no state income tax, but if you can’t be trusted to keep the lights on, you won’t be taken seriously.

  9. Manny says:

    Shifting Sand, Bill Daniels is back to his misinformation gimmicks.

    Very good article you cite, Bill. I read it last week, but it does not stand for what you stated.

    What the article states in essence is that the regulators ordered that industrial companies cut power, that included the oil and gas drillers. That created a vicious circle as they cut power, the ability to generate power was lost. They created a vicious circle of ineptitude.

    That is typical for most Republican/Fascist-run governments, a la Russia or a la Venezuela.

    If the Republicans/Fascists maintain control we will soon be a failed state like those two above.

  10. Bill Daniels says:


    Affirmative action and social promotion have failed you, bigly. Reading comprehension is obviously not your strong suit, despite years of admitted formal education, but in the spirit of the ol’ college try, here is the salient portion of the article, again:

    “A crucial part of the natural gas system was knocked out by the power outages: compressor stations that help keep gas flowing through pipelines.”

    The compressor stations were knocked out BY the power outages. They weren’t ordered by Ercot or anyone else to voluntarily go offline, they were, let’s repeat this, knocked out BY the power outages. The electricity was cut off, the pipeline operators didn’t just shut off their equipment while they still had power. The decision to shut down the compressors was made FOR the pipeline companies by the electric utility companies who shut off their power.

    It’s not a chicken and egg debate, Manny. The article EXPLICITLY states they went offline when their power was cut off by the respective electric utilities that serve those stations.

    And now, let’s see what happened NEXT, according to the article!

    “That, in turn, led some areas of the Eagle Ford shale and the Permian to simply turn off gas production completely.”

    So, FIRST, the pipelines had their power cut so they couldn’t feed gas through the line, THEN gas producers shut in their wells because their gas couldn’t travel through the pipeline system because there was no power to run the compressors.

    You should probably just stick to calling everyone here racists, Manny. That seems to be the limit of your intellectual prowess. Or, you can see about maybe hiring Wolf or Fly as private tutors, to teach you how to debate, a skill your law professors failed to impart on you.

    Read the whole article, cherry pick portions you think bolsters your side of the argument, and present it.

    And just to further help you out, when industrial customers are called on to reduce power, that means things like steel mills, aluminum smelters, maybe even petrochemical plants. There are often pre-arranged deals for those large users to shut down in times of need, with enough notice to shut down in an orderly fashion.

    It would be insane for electric generators to ask their customers to cut off their source of energy to make the electricity, especially when $ 9,000/MWh kind of profit is there for the taking.

  11. SocraticGadfly says:

    Bill, the real solution for what Bloomberg noted?

    ERCOT and RRC to communicate. That’s been said by real people, and admitted to being an ERCOT / PUC and RRC #fail.

    Again, has noting to do with “greenie environmentalists.”

  12. Manny says:

    Bill, you are a known liar with a nickname of shifting sand. Your Neantherald mind is unable to comprehend the article. Bloomberg does break it down for you simpletons.

    Power plants needed natural gas, but natural gas needed power
    A vicious cycle left producers unable to supply gas in crisis

    Who ordered the cut in power? The Fascist/Republican control agency, Ercot.

    “When the Texas power grid was on the brink of collapse and its operator plunged thousands into darkness, it didn’t make an exception for the oil and gas field.” They did not stop to think about what the cause and effect were going to be. It is like the captain of the ship that is sinking to tell them to dump the pumps to get rid of weight.

    Republicans/Fascists are incapable of running a government properly, that is why they rely on white supremacists like you to help promote hate of those that ain’t white, straight, and male.

    Your insults about my ability don’t have an effect on me Bill, I know what I know and I have a good idea of what you are and what you stand for.

    Your prior comments Bill have defined you; Let me remind you, I will add a new one.

    Bill Daniels says

    August 29, 2020 at 11:56 am

    “So, now a thoroughly discredited race-baiter holds a rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial which turns out be an attack on President Trump and the police.”

    I’m assuming you are talking about She-Jack. I wonder if she’s still looking for the white man in a red pickup for the murder of that little black girl here in Houston? Howie, the whole crowd there that day are race baiters. They are all, every one of them, white hating racists. All of them. And shame on them for helping their young people learn to be racist. It was truly sad to see MLK’s granddaughter there being pimped out to the crowd. I felt bad for her. She was the equivalent of Patty Hearst, being forced to support the SLA.

    And not to put a fine point on it but these are your people, if you don’t support Trump. You’re siding with the racist mob. How do you think you’ll fare amongst ‘your’ people if you found yourself confronted by other Trump haters? Did you see what happened to Rand Paul and his wife, as well as the other, less well known Trump supporters who had the sheer audacity to…..try and walk down a public street?

    There’s really no middle ground here. Mobs? Jobs? Pick a side.

  13. Manny says:

    Bill you a disgusting excuse for a human being.

  14. Lobo says:


    Folks, don’t forget that this was a gigantic state-sponsored heist: a forced redistribution of wealth by the GOP-controlled State of Texas from the consumption side of the electric grid to the producing side. And the supposedly deregulated market was set up so as to facilitate this massive ripoff. If you think this was the result of a laissez-faire approach, you would be mistaken.

    I get that the widespread outrage is about the power failure (actually in the form of deliberate decisions to cut off power to some and not others) and its real-life consequences for millions of shivering residential consumers, but this lamentable outcome cannot be divorced from how this so-called deregulated market is set up to operate, and how the financial incentives are mal-structured.


    Our storied – no infamous — Lone Star electric power system is set up maximize profiteering by producers in a crisis characterized by scarcity (high demand relative to supply). They therefore don’t have an incentive to weatherize their entire fleet, and much rather have an incentive to contribute to the occurrence of a scarcity situation. Why? – Because the scarcity will — by design — drive up the price of the commodity they produce. A winter storm that freezes part of the generating fleet or reduces the fuel supply is an opportunity to make a killing because the power generated with the installed base that remains operational can be sold at a multiple of the regular market price.

    But that’s not all.

    The PUC (a state agency consisting of 3 member appointed by Abbott) responded to the February weather event by “manually” jacking up the price of the scarce commodity to $9,000 on Feb 15, opining that $1,200 wasn’t good enough for the industry, given the conditions of scarcity. Mind you, they took affirmative steps to override the market dynamics. PUC issued an order for ERCOT to apply this price, and even make it effective retroactively. The day after (Feb 16), they reversed themselves on the retrospective pricing adjustment, but one of them wouldn’t even agree to that. She resigned yesterday.

    PUC-Prescribed Price Gouging: From $25 to $1,200, and then to $9,000 for the same amount of energy

    Mind you, the $1,200 under the ERCOT-administered supposedly deregulated wholesale market was already 45x the regular price of $25.00 per MVh, reflecting the anomalous situation. To give you a sense of the order of magnitude, think gasoline: Regular price $2.50 per gallon to fill your tank. Energy emergency premium pricing: $120 per gallon. So, you would be looking at more than a grand to fill your tank, and then a multiple of that under the PUC-imposed maxed-out pricing scheme.

    Note that the systemwide cap of $9,000 represents standing PUC-made policy, and can be characterized as a key element in the pre-planned price gouging scheme. The agency had tripled the amount from $3,000 in 2014 for the benefit of producers.

    But in the February weather event, the PUC actually imposed the maximum price by fiat on an ad hoc basis. In other words, the pre-planned price gouging resulting from the interplay of supply and demand in the market as structured wasn’t enough in the judgment of the PUCsters. They endeavored to intervene and hike the wholesale price to the max.

    But again, that’s not all. The PUC would soon outdo itself in the soak-the-buyers gambit to even greater excess: Systemwide emergency price gauging on steroids.


    PUC and ERCOT in consort and as de facto agents of producer interests left the $9,000 per MVh in place even after the production shortfall that necessitated the forced controlled blackouts (loadshed) for technical system-stability reasons had ended, which resulted in additional price gouging charges totaling $16 billion.

    You could already see what had happened on ERCOT’s set of slides for the board meeting. The ERCOT presentation includes timeline graphs for the production shortfall/load shed and the wholesale price over time. I previously posted the link. Additional narrative info, graphic evidence, and table-format data on tripped generating units can be found here:

    The cartel price fixed by the PUC remained in effect even though sufficient power generation had come back online to allow for restoration of service by the transmission companies to black-out areas.

    PUC’s MARCH 5, 2021 MEETING (video recording available on PUC website)

    Following consideration of the overpricing issue for at best 2 minutes or so (my estimate), the two remaining members of the PUC decided to not correct the mistake. Why? Because the reversal of the overcharge would hurt market participants that benefitted from the price gauging. Metaphoric fig leaf: No unscrambling that egg.

    But what about those already forced into bankruptcy thanks to the massive charges, most notably the Brazos Electric Power Cooperative, the state’s oldest if not largest such coop?

    Even Dan Patrick now agrees that the $16 billion post-crisis overcharge should be reversed.

  15. Bill Daniels says:


    I actually agree with you somewhat. Seems like the electric companies need to identify the feeder lines that power those natural gas compressor stations and elevate them to the same level as hospitals, fire and police departments, to make sure they absolutely, positively, do not lose power if another such event unfolds. Having said that, if the pipeline companies would simply revert to gas fired compressors, this would never be a problem again, as they would be self fueling, with part of the gas coming from the producers.


    You finally have made a decent point, one Socratic makes as well, and one that I can agree with. Going forward, we must ensure that NG compressor stations are considered 1st tier critical infrastructure, just like hospitals. Yes, there was a breakdown in making sure those compressor stations stayed up, and yes, ERCOT shares some of the blame, and there’s plenty of blame to go around.

    One way to ensure reliable operation of those stations would be to power them with natural gas, of course…..just sayin’.

    Not sure how the race baiting She-Jack figures into things, but OK, feel free to quote any of my work.

  16. Bill Daniels says:


    That’s a very compelling post, especially when we understand that power sellers didn’t incrementally bid the price up to the $ 9K/MWh limit, the regulators themselves did it in one fell swoop. You’ve half got me convinced to join with the other proles and seize the factory. You have convinced me that there was a massive failure by the PUC, mainly by instantly moving the market price to the maximum, then holding it there for literally days, vs. allowing the free market to set the price between buyers and sellers.

    You’ve convinced me. You won your argument about the PUC. Credit where credit is due.

  17. Manny says:

    Bill, you must be cheering like crazy for Biden. Why?

    Fossil fuel stock prices have gone up over 30% since Biden became president.

    Now, tell me why that is so.

  18. Bill Daniels says:


    Biden is fulfilling Obama’s promise, to necessarily make the price of energy skyrocket. You have to do that in order to destroy the country, and Biden has finally found something he is competent at…..destroying shit. Building is harder, Manny. Biden also promised to make us energy dependent again, so, again, mission accomplished. For a brief, shining moment, America had the non military strength of being an energy exporter. No mas. Why you think this is something to be proud of is a mystery, Manny. Inflation, the kind caused by high energy prices, is how political parties lose elections. How do you think people are going to vote in 2022 with $ 5/gallon diesel and every single thing they buy skyrocketing in cost? How many more stimulus checks is Biden going to have to print just to even out for the inflation Biden himself is causing with his insane America last policies?

  19. Manny says:

    Bill, I was wondering what kind of bs you were going to concoct. You did not disappoint.

    I will give you a hint. It has to do with bonds.

    Stock prices and cost of energy are two different things, Bill. I am testing you, Bill.

    Most experts have oil going up to $60 a barrel, the oil from fracking is still in the ground and there is more oil than need, supply, and demand. At $60 fracking makes money, they shut down when it got to $40.

    No wonder you are so gullible to the bs that the fascists fill you with.

  20. Manny says:

    Bill, I am providing you a link, in case you doubt me. I did not get the information from the link I am providing, I got it from other sources including the WSJ.

  21. Lobo says:

    While we were discussing yesterday …


    “Legislation relating to the correction of any billing errors by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), including any inaccurate excessive charges and any issues regarding ancillary service prices.”

    So, Abbott is now on board with Patrick on the correction ERCOT billing “error”.

    Comment: It’s debatable whether it was an “error” in the sense of mere negligence or oversight. In any event, the PUC voted not to do anything about the $16 billion overcharge problem, whether error or otherwise. We’ll see what happens with the overpricing of the ancillary charges. There is another hearing scheduled for tomorrow 3/11/2021.

    Oddly, the commission has become a one-man show: only the chairman is left.

    Here is the weather-anomaly agenda for tomorrow’s PUC session:


    1. Project No. 50664 – Issues Related to the State of Disaster for Coronavirus Disease 2019. (Discussion and possible action)
    2. Project No. 51812 – Issues Related to the State of Disaster for the February 2021 Winter Weather Event. (Discussion and possible action)
    3. Project No. 51825 – Investigation Regarding the February 2021 Winter Weather Event. (Discussion and possible action)
    4. Project No. 51830 – Review of Wholesale-Indexed Products for Compliance with
    Customer Protection Rules for Retail Electric Service. (Discussion and possible
    5. Project No. 51839 – Electric-Gas Coordination. (Discussion and possible action).
    6. Project No. 51840 – Rulemaking to Establish Weatherization Standards. (Discussion and possible action).
    7. Project No. 51841 – Review of 16 TAC § 25.53 Relating to Electric Service Emergency Operation Plans. (Discussion and possible action).

    Interestingly, I don’t see anything about the ancillary services (which were priced even higher than $9,000 per MWh).

    CORRECTION re: commodity metric: On several occasions on this thread I typed “MVh”. That should have been MWh (Megawatt Hour). The “V” in this industry refers to Volt, rather than Watt.

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