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Texas to require most power plants to prepare for weather from 0 to 96 degrees

The new rule responds to power outages during a freeze and conservation requests during the hot summer.

Following calls over the summer for Texans to conserve electricity and last year’s infamous winter power outages, the Public Utility Commission on Thursday announced a new rule designed to improve grid reliability. Power plants must weatherize equipment each season to handle wind chills of zero in most areas and temperatures up to 96 degrees.

The temperature that power plants must show they can handle depends on the region. The PUC said power plants in the region, including Dallas-Fort Worth, must be able to operate with average temperatures over 72 hours as high as 95.4 and wind chills as low as -0.5. The highest temperature requirement is 96.1, in the region including Wichita Falls. The lowest wind chill temperature is for the Panhandle region, at -17.6.

“Reliability drives every decision we make when it comes to grid operations,” commission chairman Peter Lake said. “The grid has to be ready for any weather condition, from extreme heat to extreme cold. These rules take that into account by setting the baseline preparation requirements for an operator at some of the most extreme weather conditions this state has experienced and requiring the operator to prepare their generation resources and transmission facilities to be able to operate in those conditions.”

Dallas had 47 100-degree days this year, according to the National Weather Service. In July, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas asked Texans to conserve energy after projecting an energy shortage, but the grid operator avoided systemwide outages.

Last year, the state was devastated by a winter storm that knocked out power to millions of homes and ultimately resulted in the deaths of more than 200 Texans. Up to 70% of ERCOT’s customers lost power, according to a survey by the University of Houston.

Multiple groups and factors have been blamed for the issues since the winter storm struck, including ERCOT and Gov. Greg Abbott’s office, Texas’ independent power grid, Texas’ renewable energy sector and its deregulated energy market. In 2021, the PUC expected electricity generators to winterize their facilities against extreme cold weather, and regulators tightened the rules are after reforms by the Texas Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Abbott.

The commission said the expanded preparation rules for electricity generators and transmission utilities “build on the successful implementation” of winter weather requirements adopted last fall and add summer preparation requirements beginning in June.

The new rule also removes a special exemption process adopted last year for utilities that could not meet mandatory preparation deadlines due to supply chain issues or other acceptable reasons.

The commission said ERCOT, which operates the grid for about 90% of Texas, must also deliver a weather study examining weather parameters that can have negative impacts on the grid’s reliability. ERCOT must now update the study every five years to account for weather pattern variability over time.

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