At the moment Texas relies on a separate power grid from two larger national grids and is not subject to federal regulation. What would happen if Texas could connect its decentralized grid to the rest of the country’s system?
For some time, fear of additional federal oversight have dissuaded Texas from fully connecting to the national power networks, which would allow the state to buy and sell energy with the rest of the country, said Pat Wood, CEO of the Hunt Energy Network and former grid regulator, during a Texas Tribune panel discussion about changes to the state’s power grid.
However, Wood believes Texas could connect itself to the country’s system without losing autonomy and without action from the state legislature. He claimed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has policies that protect Texas’ grid from federal interference, as reported by The Texas Tribune.
“We have the ability to build gates to the outside and not become vassals of another king,” Wood said. “We [would still be] in charge of our own grid — and that was built into the federal law.”
PUC officials say there is no need to connect to the grid, even though an analysis by the American Council on Renewable Energy, shows connecting to neighboring states could have saved nearly $1 billion and prevented blackouts in around 200,000 Texas homes during Winter Storm Uri last year.
During the Texas Tribune event, Peter Lake, PUC chair, didn’t deny the benefits of being connected to the other grids – like being in a position to sell energy to other states and then hedging problems by getting power from other people.
However, Lake said PUC was mainly focused on achieving reliability in Texas first.
Adding that improvements implemented to Texas’ grid during last year’s legislative sessions would not have been as quickly adopted or scalable if it had been working with the federal grid.
“Having our own grid allows Texas to adjust course quickly when something goes wrong,” he said. “We adore working with our federal partners, but Texas can move fast and do it right when something goes wrong.”
Joshua Rhodes, a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin, said during the Tribune’s panel discussion that Texas would indeed benefit by connecting to the larger U.S. grid.
Texas is the largest producer of energy in the country and selling electricity would allow it to pay for additional improvements to the stability of the state’s grid, Rhodes said.