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U.S. Rep. Greg Casar wants Congress to require Texas to connect its power grid to the rest of the country

The sun sets behind power lines above the plains north of Amarillo, Texas, U.S., March 14, 2017.
Lucas Jackson
The sun sets behind power lines above the plains north of Amarillo, Texas, U.S., March 14, 2017.

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Texas' unique power grid was on full display when it failed in February 2021, leaving millions of Texans without power for several days during a winter storm.

And then once again in the summer of 2023, as the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) issued regular pleas to Texas residents to conserve energy to avoid blackouts.

“Whether we’re in the middle of a heat wave or a winter storm, Texas should be able to keep the lights on," said Congressman Greg Casar, a Democrat whose district includes parts of San Antonio and Austin.

He is drafting legislation that would connect the Texas grid to the rest of the country, something state leaders have long refused to do.

Ed Hirs is an energy expert has been predicting for years that a failure of this scale would happen.

"About 90% of the state’s electricity is run solely through the Texas grid," he said. "Because millions of Texans are not interconnected to the national grids, they are susceptible to losing power in the extreme cold or extreme heat — when needing reliable energy the most. The remaining 10% — like El Paso in the West and Jasper in the East — are connected to other grids and did not suffer mass power outages during the 2021 winter storm."

Casar said Congress has the legal authority to require Texas to connect to the national grids to protect consumers, improve electric reliability nationwide, and safely regulate commerce.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is also considering new rulesthat would force Texas to connect with grids in other states to prevent more widespread blackouts.

In its second season, “The Disconnect: Power Politics and the Texas Blackout” now observes 18 months after the storm and power outages of February 2021. Millions of Texans lost their power, and hundreds may have died.
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Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1