Texas lawmakers grill ERCOT and power companies

Jessica Willey Image
Saturday, February 27, 2021
Ted Oberg covers day 2 of ERCOT hearings in Austin
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State leaders continue to probe what went wrong with the power grid during the February winter storm and what can be done to keep it from happening again.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The Texas Legislature hearings were held on Thursday morning to investigate last week's failure of the state's power grid and its manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).

During an emergency board meeting Wednesday, ERCOT officials said the grid was a mere four minutes and 37 seconds from a total collapse.

More than 350 power generators were knocked offline due to weather issues. Had they not implemented controlled outages, Texas would have been in the dark for weeks.

SEE ALSO: Texas power grid was 4 minutes from catastrophic failure: ERCOT

"That is why I have made it a legislative priority to mandate and to fund the winterization and stabilization of the Texas power infrastructure," said Gov. Greg Abbott in a statewide address Wednesday evening. "This will protect the power grid from future power events."

Texas Democrats said this action should have come much sooner, as experts have been raising flags for years.

SEE ALSO: 13 Investigates consumers' pain after years of power grid neglect

"Something didn't go right as far as planning and appointing members," said vice-chair of the Texas Democratic Party, Dr. Carla Brailey in response to Abbott. "We need leadership that is going to put people first and not profit."

The winter storm has thrown the state's power system into upheaval. Texans are still recovering from pipe damage caused by freezing temperatures, coupled with a lack of power. Thousands have also received huge electricity bills.

SEE ALSO: Some Texans could be hit with spiking power bills

"Thirteen thousand for seven days of power," said Akilah Scott Amos of her bill from Griddy, a wholesale electricity provider. "Choices can be good or bad."

Griddy has saved Scott Amos money but now she is facing a $13,000 bill for her home in Spring and another $2,000 bill for her organic body products business. She knew she would be subject to varying costs but never expected this.

"This is robbery. This is robbery and if your whole mean is to make a profit while people are suffering. That's not right," she said.

While the state legislature will be considering reform, Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia wants the county to explore leaving ERCOT altogether.

"I'm confident we can get to a place where we can find a pathway that is better than what we've got," Garcia said. The issue is on the Commissioners Court agenda for Friday.

Scott Amos says something must change. She is looking for an attorney for a possible class-action lawsuit. Griddy has given her five months to pay off her bill.

SEE ALSO: Texas woman files suit against Griddy over $9K electricity bill during winter freeze

"We need regulation," she said. "There's no reason why people should go into debt. There's no reason why it shouldn't be regulated there's no reason why people should have to get GoFundMe for basic utilities."

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