Energy News Today

Biden Visits Texas as Regulators Begin to Examine State’s Electric Grid

Federal officials are rushing emergency relief to Texas for its power crisis, though longer-term efforts to shore up the electric grid are likely to run into political obstacles and challenges to Washington’s authority.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has deployed to hard-hit areas, providing generators and fuel, and delivering water, blankets and meals. Residents can access emergency aid funds for temporary housing, home repairs and uninsured property damage.

But political and legal issues loom over Washington’s response. Federal emergency funds can’t legally be used for utility bills that soared for some people, local governments and businesses in Texas’ open-market system. And lobbyists and congressional aides expect Texas to keep defending a system that it has worked for years to shield from federal jurisdiction.

A cold snap unusually powerful for the state crippled Texas’ electrical grid this month. It left more than four million Texans without electricity and heat, many for days in subfreezing temperatures, and resulted in 80 deaths.

President Biden met in Houston on Friday with state and local officials. He said he would help Texans “recover and rebuild.” A disaster declaration that he signed Saturday now applies to more than 100 counties, opening up grants and low-cost loans for residents and business owners. The federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program may also help some subject to large utility bills.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott promised in a statewide address Wednesday to find answers to what went wrong. He said he would ensure state lawmakers enact fixes.

Beyond immediate needs, congressional committees and federal regulators are beginning to investigate how Texas’ grid failed and what it suggests about future threats to reliability nationwide. They are also looking into commodity trading during the event, to examine whether market manipulation played any role in soaring prices.

Millions of Texans face empty grocery shelves and a lack of safe drinking water following a power and utility crisis caused by winter storms. President Biden said he would speed up federal aid for the state. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Texas has few and often no requirements for buildings and power plants to weatherize, instead relying on free-market established prices to provide the incentive for businesses to do so on their own. In a state more used to hot summers, those businesses largely ignored past federal warnings to prepare for Arctic winter chills.

Nearly 185 generating units, mostly gas and coal-fired capacity, tripped offline. The resulting shortages and…

Read More: Biden Visits Texas as Regulators Begin to Examine State’s Electric Grid

2021-02-26 19:05:00

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