Get Ready Texas For Another Power Outage Unless Companies are Prepared

Tom Handy

Temperatures are already dropping so that means winter is right around the corner for Dallas residents. Winter officially begins on December 1. Texas does not require Gas companies to weatherize so you could face another power issue that you may have faced earlier this year.

“I will tell you I’m still worried,” said Curt Morgan, CEO of Vistra Corp. “If we have another event like [February’s Winter Storm] Uri this winter, we are not out of the woods. There’s no doubt about it.”

ABC Channel 8 has reported that Vistra, the largest electricity producer in Texas, has upgraded its weatherization and at 19 other Texas facilities.

Vistra said its facilities can withstand temperatures of -5 degrees. State and federal regulators have not announced the minimum standards for weatherization in spite of the winter storm the state faced earlier this year.

The electric company is re-insulating pipes, adding heaters, and bringing in 2,000,000 gallons of diesel or backup generators that provide power for up to a week if they need to be turned on.

Morgan added, “So, no one told us to go out and do this. We knew it needed to get done.”

This year, Vistra is spending $50 million on weatherization and an additional $30 million next year. The company spent an estimated $2 billion after February’s winter storm. To prevent a similar costly event, they have spent the money-making upgrades.

“Natural gas is fundamental to electricity. Electricity is fundamental to everyday life,” Morgan said. “I’m hoping that the [Texas] Railroad Commission [which regulates natural gas producers] will take this even more serious and actually push their constituents to weatherize sooner and register [as critical infrastructure] for this winter. Even though the process in Senate Bill 3 gives them through 2022 to do most of the work, I hope they accelerate that, and they take it serious what the legislature has told them recently that it’s unacceptable not to be prepared for this winter.”
“I think we should all take every precaution to get ready for this winter. We’re concerned. Our elected officials are concerned,” said Jim Burke, Vistra President.
“I will tell you I’m still worried,” said Curt Morgan, CEO of Vistra Corp. “If we have another event like [February’s Winter Storm] Uri this winter, we are not out of the woods. There’s no doubt about it.”

The Irving-based company is the largest electricity producer in Texas.

Vistra’s power plant in Midlothian, a combined cycle [natural] gas turbine facility, can produce about 1,600 megawatts of electricity at full capacity, which is enough to power 800,000 homes. Natural gas fuels this facility.

For months, Vistra has upgraded its weatherization here and at the other 19 facilities, it operates in Texas.

Though state and federal regulators have not yet announced minimum standards for weatherization, Vistra said its facilities would be able to withstand temperatures of -5 degrees.

Across the system, Vistra is reinsulating pipes, adding heaters to them, and even trucked in 2,000,000 gallons of diesel that can power backup generators for up to a week in case they have to be turned on.

“So, no one told us to go out and do this. We knew it needed to get done,” Morgan explained.

Vistra said it is spending $50 million on weatherization this year and an additional $30 million next year. The investments for reliability are small considering February’s winter storm cost the company an estimated $2 billion.

The Midlothian plant did not go down during the February freeze. It just had to scale back to 30% capacity because it couldn’t get enough natural gas.

Eight months later, that’s still the concern.

Electric plants are preparing for winter but natural gas producers in Texas are not required to do the same.

The problem is, about half of all-electric generation facilities in Texas run on natural gas.

“Natural gas is fundamental to electricity. Electricity is fundamental to everyday life,” Morgan said. “I’m hoping that the [Texas] Railroad Commission [which regulates natural gas producers] will take this even more serious and actually push their constituents to weatherize sooner and register [as critical infrastructure] for this winter. Even though the process in Senate Bill 3 gives them through 2022 to do most of the work, I hope they accelerate that, and they take it serious what the legislature has told them recently that it’s unacceptable not to be prepared for this winter.”

A few months ago, Texas lawmakers passed a bill requiring electric and natural gas companies to identify critical infrastructure. This requirement has to be complete by the end of next year.

Morgan added:

“I’m a little bit surprised that we haven’t made more progress from February to now and in particular on the natural gas side.”

Todd Staples, President of the Texas Oil and Gas Association’s Lone Star Energy Forum said:

“Our companies use various methods of winterization. We are working with a sense of urgency and to be prepared. Maintaining power is the best winterization tool ever.”

Additional problems may surface

Gas companies are producing more but they are also exporting more gas. This means there is less gas stockpiled when it is really needed.

The Vistra President and CFO said:

“I think we should all take every precaution to get ready for this winter. We’re concerned. Our elected officials are concerned. Our regulators are concerned,” said Jim Burke, Vistra President and CFO. “We can weatherize the electric side but if we don’t weatherize the gas side, we’re not going to have the output we need to serve Texas.”

Do you think Texas companies are ready for another power outage this winter?

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