Abbott and O’Rourke Debate Long-term Needs with the Texas Power Grid

Trong Nguyen /

One of the issues at the center of the race for governor in the state of Texas is the reliability of the power grid. The people of Texas were asked by ERCOT to conserve power last weekend because six of their generation plants went offline unexpectedly. The state experienced an early heatwave for this time of year, and the surprising lack of power raised questions about the power grid’s ability to meet the needs of the state.

There were not any power outages reported, but it did not stop people from being concerned about the short-term and long-term implications for the coming summer with intense temperatures.

This will impact the race for governor because the two top candidates differ on how to respond. Greg Abbott is the Republican incumbent governor and his Democratic challenger is Beto O’Rourke, a former Congressman from El Paso.

One of the ideas being debated as a long-term solution is having ERCOT, the company that operates most of the electric grid in the state, join with two other grids in that region of the country. ERCOT can connect with the Eastern Interconnection, and the Western Interconnection.

O’Rourke is in favor of this decision, while Abbott believes that ERCOT should remain independent.

Both candidates were asked to explain their positions and describe how the people of Texas would benefit under their leadership.

Governor Abbott said, “We’ll be able to draw down power wherever we need it and Texans will never again have to worry about the lights not coming on, the heat to running or our water pipes freezing as they did last winter. This is a smart common-sense thing that most Texans can get behind.”

He went further stating that joining the national grid would be both “uninformed and misguided.” He, then, talked about the increased regulations that the state would be under and that the price of electricity in Texas would increase. He also stated that joining the national grid would not ensure that Texas would not have any more power outages. He referenced the state of California. They are with the national grid and have power outages all the time.

O’Rourke’s position is that some in Texas are already seeing higher prices for power after the winter they had last year. In the winter, Texas saw 246 people die because of a power outage, according to the state.

Governor Abbott reminded people that ERCOT’s request last weekend for Texans to conserve power never reached an emergency level. And he called for ERCOT to be even more transparent with the public. The state government passed bills last year requiring ERCOT to be more forthcoming.

Abbott and O’Rourke were both asked how Texas could increase its power capacity and exactly what kinds of power plants the candidates envision for the future.

O’Rourke said, “They are working as we speak right now on a market redesign and that market redesign will be focusing on new sources of generation capacity, most of which will be focused on natural gas that will strongly complement the renewables that are already in place.”

He went further to describe how Texas was blessed to have gas and oil reserves and how they need to maintain its place as a leader in that industry. He also focused on the need to further develop renewable energy sources like wind, solar, geothermal, and hydrogen. He said that he wanted to be “a leader globally in renewable energy.”

The people of Texas have a major decision to make regarding who they believe can keep their lights on and their homes heated and cooled.