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Power Outages in Texas

CRS Insight – Power Outages in Texas, February 17, 2021: “Texas’s power outages, many experts argue, are largely a result of policies for electricity independence that the state has pursued for decades. Texas operates its own independent electrical grid, run by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) that serves most of the state. Texas established ERCOT in 1970 initially to manage grid reliability in accordance with federal standards, and later established ERCOT as an independent system operator(ISO) scheduling power on an electric grid that connects approximately 680 generation units. ERCOT remains largely independent from oversight by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) because of the independent design of the electric power system in Texas. ERCOT itself states: “FERC does not have plenary jurisdiction over ERCOT because electric energy generated in the ERCOT Region is not transmitted in “interstate commerce,” as defined by the [Federal Power Act], except for certain interconnections ordered by FERC that do not give rise to broader FERC jurisdiction.” The United States has three main electric power transmission systems, the Eastern and Western Interconnections, and the grid run by ERCOT. While these grids largely operate independently from each other, there are approximately 1,300 megawatts (MW) of transmission capacity connecting the three transmission systems. Other ISOs in California and New York operate within the Eastern and Western Interconnections, and have transmission connections with several other states. ERCOT has two connections with 820 MW of total transmission capacity connecting it to the Eastern Interconnect, and these are high-voltage, direct current transmission lines that operate under contract. There are also two connections that allow power to come in from Mexico. According to ERCOT, these interconnections “do not give rise to broader FERC jurisdiction.

The result is that ERCOT grid [Electric Reliability Council of Texas], essentially, is not connected to the rest of the United States….”

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