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Power plant winterization may be hitting a snag

Texas public utility regulators are considering a phased-in approach to writing new extreme weather standards.

HOUSTON — Since the paralyzing February artic freeze, winterization of power plants has been a hot topic and the centerpiece of energy reform in Austin.

But now the approach to implementing new laws appears to be coming in baby steps.

“Crawl, walk, run,” said Will McAdams, Texas Public Utility Commissioner.

At a work session Thursday, PUC commissioners grappled with a “chicken and egg” conundrum — how to write new, all-encompassing weatherization standards without a complete weather study.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, ERCOT, doesn’t expect to finish that study until the end of January. The problem is state lawmakers gave utility regulators a December deadline to write new winterization rules.

The compromise discussed Thursday involves a staggered, phased-in approach to writing new standards: begin with minimal rules and leave the door open to fine-tuning requirements once the weatherization data and analysis comes in.

“It’s not going to be the perfect, and we’ll work toward the perfect, but it will provide industry-wide ERCOT standard that we’ll bring everybody up to,” McAdams said.

The initial standard on the table would require power plants that failed during the 2021 and 2011 winter storms, identify things that went wrong and attest that they’ve been corrected.

“Make a plan to fix those and execute that plan,” said Barksdale English, PUC Director of Compliance and Enforcement. “So actually prepare your facility, don’t just tell me that you identified the problem, but do something about it.”

PUC commissioners also discussed implementing some of the best practices identified by federal regulators after the 2011 winter storm, as well as a 2012 report by Quanta Services.

The PUC expects to have a draft report of winterization rules by Aug. 28.