How do ERCOT and PUC Work in Texas to Help Residents Save Power?

Do the big power providers save you money in Texas?

The sweeping blackouts have left many Texas homeowners in critical cold conditions, and suffering no running water, burst pipes, and flooded homes. This has made it clear that policymakers throughout the country should act soon to avoid future harsh weather conditions from affecting our energy infrastructure and resulting in the same public safety crises.

The good news is that modern super-efficient heating technology and home weatherization are powerful tools that can help in reducing the stress exerted on the electric grid. Ultimately, they can help people to stay comfortable and safe in today’s increasingly harsh climate.

Quite frankly, the life-threatening infrastructure failures experienced were not caused by power generation only, the leaky and uninsulated buildings were also a huge part of the issue. Almost 70% of houses in Texas were either constructed in 1999 or earlier, this is before the introduction of modern energy codes uniquely made to reduce energy waste. In other words, they have little insulation. What’s more, the state’s dependence on traditional and inefficient heating methods has grown drastically in the last few decades, with about 35% of houses using gas furnaces and 60% of using electric heating, minimum efficiency heat pumps, or most of those furnaces.

As you might have guessed, this combination plays a huge contributory role in disaster in case a cold snap strikes. This is primarily because heating demand increases in uninsulated houses and inefficient heaters worsen the rise in energy demand. Inefficient heaters in many poorly insulated Texas buildings assisted to fuel demand at exactly the time when the power plants were actually struggling to be online.

The sad truth is that this issue won’t be fixed by using gas heat. Although gas furnaces may need less electricity to run, they’re always competing for gas with power plants, leading to the overall stress on the electric grid. Unfortunately, this was the situation when the storms hit Colorado and the largest utility in the state was forced to limit gas supplies when it came to electric generators – primarily to conserve the fuel for commercial and residential heating. Therefore, more inefficient gas heating could have worsened the fuel supply shortages in Texas.

The best option would be to try as much as possible to lower energy demand by weatherizing buildings, use demand flexibility for spreading restricted supplies without shutting off power entirely, apply the most efficient technology available for heating households, and keep all available fuels to guarantee there’s sufficient electric generation for heating all homes.

PUC (Public Utility Commission) typically oversees ERCOT (Electric Reliability Commission of Texas). This is the body responsible for operating the electric grid and managing the deregulated market for 75% of the state. These agencies were ordered to take four actions when it comes to the power grid and its overall reliability. These tasks are:

– Reconstructing market incentives to allow the maintenance and development of more reliable power generation, especially from thermal sources.

– Developing a maintenance schedule when it comes to thermal generators to guarantee that there’s always a sufficient supply of power on the electric grid.

– Footing bills to renewable companies for the charges incurred by the state in terms of compensating for their lack of power generation, particularly during moments of high demand.

– Facilitating transmission projects that usually transfer electricity from the actual point of production to consumption.

According to the Governor, these directives primarily focus on ensuring that every Texan gets access to safe, reliable, and affordable power. They also ensure that this task is obtained in the fastest way possible.

The Governor also believes that transparency, clear communication, and implementation of these fundamental changes can help ERCOT and PUC to regain the public’s trust, and ultimately restore the status of ERCOT as a leader in reliability and innovation. This will also guarantee that Texans get the reliable electric power they’re looking for and deserve.

The legislature later introduced an electricity omnibus bill, as well as regulatory revamp as its blackouts’ response – this was signed by Governor Abbott in early June. During the signing of the bill, the Governor added that they did everything they could and that was necessary to fix the Texas power grid.

Unfortunately, a week after that bill was signed, a heatwave hit the Texas grid once again. Because of this, ERCOT issued an energy conservation alert. Even though the situation did not worsen more than that, it certainly caused a stir among many Texas homeowners wondering whether their power grid might withstand the summer heat. The good news is that the Governor sees the aforementioned tasks as the proper directives to assuage those issues and avoid outages in the future. Therefore, these agencies will ultimately help reduce energy needs.

No matter if it is a heat pump or a gas furnace, no traditional heating system works during a power outage. Gas heating typically requires electricity to ignite and for powering the blower fan. And in most cases, gas water heaters require electricity to ignite and vent. Even though no heating system available can be completely resilient to power outages, efficient heating systems will generally assist the electric grid to be up and running. This will ensure that nobody will need to go without a power supply.  This helps to reduce the average overall cost of energy to your Texas home or business.

In general, highly efficient electric technologies, e.g., water heaters and pump space, play a vital role in this solution. The electric heat pump technology has advanced greatly these days and is 3-5 times more efficient than traditional electric and gas resistance equipment used to heat water and indoor spaces. They’re also readily accessible for serving home heating requirements throughout the country. It’s worth noting that newly introduced air-source heat pumps may provide heat efficiently, and utilize electric resistance backup. Water-source and ground-source heat pumps can also efficiently heat households at much lower outdoor temperatures. As you can see, the combination of efficient heat pumps and home insulation would have reduced the surge in power demand. This would have limited the stress on the grid, and ultimately helped to reduce or prevent the blackouts.

When you use Electricity Shark or another power comparison site/tool, you’ll get electricity rates from a wide range of Retail Energy Providers in Texas. By narrowing your search, you can ensure that you view the most suitable plans according to your area. Just enter your zip code, and you’ll see many providers that provide the best electric rates in your area.