House Energy and Commerce Committee Examines Texas Power Grid Failure

Apr 12, 2021

by ASME.org

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations recently held a hearing titled, “Power Struggle: Examining the 2021 Texas Grid Failure.” The hearing delved into the causes and consequences of the crisis, which killed over 100 Texans and impacted commerce, municipal water systems, medical infrastructure, and more than 4.5 million electricity customers across the state. The Committee received testimony from Bill Magness, President and CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), and Christi Craddick, Chairman of the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC). Both organizations have primary regulatory jurisdiction over the Texas grid and oil and natural gas production, pipelines, natural gas utilities, and other critical infrastructure which failed during the storm. The committee also heard from James Robb, President and CEO of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, which develops and enforces energy reliability and security standards for the grid.
 
In his opening statement, Texas Representative Michael Burgess, M.D. noted that the committee has a responsibility to address energy system failures and urged his colleagues not to politicize the crisis. “Unfortunately, we cannot overlook the fact that this is only the latest such tragedy. In recent years similar events have occurred in California and the North East. While the causes of each blackout are unique, the results are the same: unnecessary suffering and economic disruption. This Committee has direct jurisdiction over much of the energy sector and has a responsibility to address many shortcomings of our electric system. Finally, I’d like to voice my strong concern about the politicization of this crisis. No one policy caused this crisis and no one policy could have prevented it. I implore my colleagues to use this hearing to study the crisis in full. The reliability of our country’s electric supply is not a partisan priority, it’s a national priority.”
 
In testimony, witnesses outlined the multiple factors that required ERCOT, using procedures established for such emergencies, to call on transmission providers to use controlled load shedding to balance the system and prevent a devastating blackout of the entire electric grid. In the aftermath of the crisis, NERC announced a joint inquiry into the Midwest and South-Central states cold weather event that will examine how the extreme weather impacted operations of the bulk power system in the affected regions of the country. The joint inquiry team includes Regional Entities from the impacted areas and the Department of Energy (DOE) to provide a comprehensive, detailed analysis of the event and root causes as well as findings and recommendations for further action.
 
To view an archived webcast of the hearing and witness testimony, visit:
https://energycommerce.house.gov/committee-activity/hearings/hearing-on-power-struggle-examining-the-2021-texas-grid-failure


 

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