80 percent of 2021 blackouts preventable with addition of Texas to national grid: Study

Integrating Texas’ self-contained electrical grid with the broader national grid could prevent mass power outages like those suffered in the Lone Star state during a 2021 cold snap, according to research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In the study, from MIT’s Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research, the researchers modeled the effects of a bill introduced by Reps. Greg Casar (D-Texas) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) that would connect the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) to the rest of the country.  They determined that if such a law had been enacted ahead of the 2021 event, Winter Storm Uri, up to 80 percent of the millions of blackouts caused by the storm could have been averted.

They also determined that in a year that saw no atypical or extreme weather events, the law would still save between $901 million and $1.24 billion, increasing ERCOT’s annual net revenues specifically by $123 million. It also found connecting ERCOT would reduce nationwide greenhouse gas emissions by up to 31 million metric tons.

Casar touted the results of the study in a press release.

“This research proves what many Texans know: we didn’t need to lose electricity, money, and so many lives during Winter Storm Uri,” he said. “The Connect the Grid Act would create more reliable electricity nationwide, while saving money and reducing carbon dioxide. I urge all of my colleagues to follow the science, and help us deliver power to the people.”

Casar and Ocasio-Cortez introduced the bill, which would place ERCOT under the jurisdiction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), in February. Several Texas Republicans in the chamber responded with an opposing bill opposing adding ERCOT to the federal grid.

“In Texas, we proudly maintain our own electric grid, overseen by Texans, not the federal government, and we intend to keep it that way. Some of my Democrat colleagues had a brilliant idea to lasso the state into the national electric grid, filled with its own challenges and failures,” co-sponsor Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas) said in March, while Casar mocked the sponsors as the “pro-blackout caucus” and a spokesperson for his office noted that part of Weber’s district is located in a region of southeast Texas not covered by ERCOT.

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