Image of a cactus covered in snow.

Anniversary of the 2021 Texas Freeze: What’s Legislation Got To Do With It? 

The 2021 Texas freeze set a benchmark. Get an overview of the Senate bills Governor Greg Abbott recently signed and how things could change.

Two weeks and three days. 

That’s how long the effects of the 2021 Texas Freeze lasted. And this week marks its second anniversary.

Winter Storm Uri put Texas in a chokehold, debilitating the state with temperatures as low as 6 degrees Fahrenheit. Due to abnormally cold conditions, many parts of the state saw power outages from the grid’s inability to withstand the state’s energy demands. 

Millions of Texans wound up without lighting or heat. And while it was inconvenient at the least and life-threatening at the worst, it left many questioning what went wrong. 

Was it the state’s weak infrastructure? Is Texas not investing enough money in critical energy sources, including the grid? Should we move our focus to alternative energy?

In this article, we’ll explore key topics regarding the 2021 Texas Freeze:

  • Major results of the Texas Freeze
  • Recently enacted legislation 
  • Whether the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is prepared for future crises
  • What Governor Abbott is doing to prevent another region-wide meltdown 

[Related: Time To Prepare For Blackouts? Black Out Big Energy Instead]

The 2021 Texas Freeze: What Happened?

In February 2021, Winter Storm Uri hit Texas and gripped the state with subfreezing temperatures. As the storm’s second anniversary approaches, it’s important to remember what happened and what caused those deadly blackouts.

First, Governor Abbott announced a state of emergency after Winter Storm Uri hit. Its toll was massive and devastating:

  • 69% of Texas lost power, with outages lasting an average of 42 hours. 
  • Hundreds died from hypothermia and carbon monoxide poisoning (among other problems) after critical medical equipment lost power.
  • With $195 billion in damages, Uri was the most expensive natural disaster in Texas history. 
  • Electric bills skyrocketed, with some Texans seeing electric bills of up to $17,000
  • Methane gas providers earned around $11 billion in profits. Texas residents will end up paying back those gas companies for the next three decades.

[Related: Austin Resident Weathers Ice Storm and Gives Meaning to “Live More Powerfully”]

What’s Legislation Got To Do With It?

Governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bills 2 and 3 into law on Jan. 31, 2022. The legislature designed the bills for two main reasons:

  • To reform ERCOT 
  • To weatherize the state’s power grid so that it’s more reliable 

Senators Charles Schwertner and Kelly Hancock and Representative Chris Paddie joined Abbott in the signing. 

Key Areas of Signed Legislation

Texas now requires energy industries to weatherize natural gas, power generation and transmission facilities to better handle extreme weather. 

The Texas Railroad Commission and ERCOT must now inspect these facilities. If they fail to weatherize them, they could face a penalty of up to $1 million.

These bills also kick-started the “Power Outage Alert.” That is, when the state’s power supply can’t meet current energy demands, Texas residents receive an emergency alert. Additionally, the Texas Energy Reliability Council will try to improve how state agencies and industries work together during extreme weather emergencies, including power outages. 

This legislation also contributes to major ERCOT reforms. For example, the ERCOT board must have eight fully independent members within the 11-member board. All members must be Texas residents. This influences how ERCOT board members make critical decisions with the state’s best interests at heart. 

While this legislation is a step in the right direction, there should be a bigger focus on alternative, clean energy sources to help keep the grid resilient. 

[Related: Are Solar Panels Worth It? What You Need To Know To Decide]

Is Alternative Energy the Answer?

Growing scientific evidence shows Winter Storm Uri ties to climate change. 

The polar vortex pushing arctic temperatures all the way down to Texas and freezing gas supplies could have caused the storm. Extreme heat also may have strained the grid’s work capacity — and global warming poses a major threat to grid resilience. Or droughts may have dried up bodies of water necessary for coal, gas and nuclear plants to function.

While weatherizing power plants and maintaining gas supplies are important in the short term, we absolutely must move away from fossil fuels as our primary energy source. And we need to do it quickly. 

Alternative energy — including wind and solar power — is Texas’ ticket to more energy resilience and continued energy leadership. 

Check out our legislative article to read more about the importance of keeping clean energy at the top of Texas energy law conversations. In it, Freedom Solar Power CEO Bret Biggart offers a valuable perspective on the need for Texas’ energy industries to “coexist, adapt and evolve” together.

Lawmakers must find solutions that increase reliability and lower bills.

[Related: 10 Reasons Why Solar Should Be Every Homeowner’s Next Investment]

Contact Freedom Solar To Invest in Clean Energy

If you’re ready to gain energy independence for your home or looking for a solar panel company for your business, contact Freedom Solar. We’ll make sure you’re more prepared for extreme weather events.

We provide SunPower® solar panels, Tesla Powerwalls and other solar battery backup systems to ensure you reach energy independence with your solar installation. Whether you’re in Texas (our headquarters) or one of our affiliate states, we can help you make the move to solar ASAP. 

Discover Texas solar rebates and incentives, your solar financing options and much more. If you have a question about your system or need solar repair and maintenance, our full-time energy consultants are ready to assist you.

Call us at (800) 504-2337 or complete our inquiry form. One of our energy consultants will be in touch!

Featured image via Unsplash