Houston's Harris County is looking into leaving the Texas power grid after recent widespread power failures

Madison Hall
·3 min read
  • A winter storm in mid-February knocked out power for millions of Texans for days.

  • Harris County officials are now looking into leaving Texas' independent power grid to rejoin the federal grid.

  • Texas' power grid is not federally regulated and is reliant on private generators and transmission companies.

  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Harris County officials in Texas are looking into leaving Texas' power grid after ice storms knocked out the state's power and left millions without electricity in freezing temperatures. The county is home to the city of Houston, the fourth-largest city in the US, and is home to over 4 million inhabitants.

Unlike the rest of the contiguous US, Texas is reliant on its own federally unregulated power grid. Supporters of Texas' power grid have claimed in the past that it is responsible for the state's high energy production - in 2019, Texas' crude oil production broke a 40-year-old record.

A large-scale winter storm that hit the state in mid-February, however, demonstrated the flaws of an unregulated power grid after natural gas pipelines and other energy sources froze, crippling Texas' energy production and leaving millions scrambling for warmth.

Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia submitted an agenda item on Monday to discuss leaving Texas' power grid in Friday's Commissioner's Court meeting, according to a press release.

Liberty County, one of Harris County's immediate neighbors, is one of several counties in the state that is not connected to Texas' power grid and instead relies upon the Midcontinent Independent System Operator for power, a federally regulated entity in the Eastern Interconnect Grid. According to Garcia's press release, he is looking to see if Harris County can leave Texas' power grid like Liberty County before a similar situation occurs once more.

Garcia's frustrations with Texas' unregulated power grid go all the way back to 2011 when the state's power grid fell victim to a similar winter storm. He said that officials promised to get to the bottom of the issue to ensure it didn't happen again, but "no significant actions were taken." Garcia's press release noted that Gov. Greg Abbott repeatedly promised to work with Harris County to crack down on chemical and fertilizer plant explosions that have scourged the city during his time as attorney general and governor, but that Abbott never followed through.

Due to the state's repeated failures to strengthen and protect its own power grid and Abbott's unkept promises, Garcia said the state cannot be trusted to keep Harris County's residents safe.

"I can't speak for the other members of court, but I am concerned with the State's leadership inability to keep promises they have made to their constituents during disasters," Garcia said in a press release. "This agenda item is meant to explore how we in Harris County can take ownership of keeping residents safe, something the state has clearly shown it can't be trusted to do itself."

Texas began its quest for energy deregulation in 1999, according to The New York Times, when the state shifted control of the sector to a market-based system reliant on private generators, retail electric providers, and transmission companies. Texas is the only state in the mainland US that is not part of the federal electric grid.

According to reporting from KHOU, a local Houston news station, most of the counties not reliant on Texas' power grid weathered the recent winter storms with far fewer power outages.

Read the original article on Business Insider