Texas continues to experience record-breaking heat that is putting our electric grid to the test. Several times recently, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) issued a conservation pleas to Texans to avoid rolling blackouts. And the state keeps setting records for energy demand.

However, thanks to the work of Governor Abbott, Lt. Governor Patrick, Speaker Phelan and the entire legislature, critical changes were made to our power grid last legislative session and our air-conditioning is staying on.

In the aftermath of winter storm Uri, the legislature created an Electricity Supply Chain Map, locating critical electric and natural gas facilities throughout the state, along with emergency contact information, to respond more efficiently in case of emergency.

Susan Combs

The PUC plans to update the map two times per year. The map is meant to provide advance warning to ERCOT when there are failures in the natural gas transportation system. There are also new weatherization requirements, and the Legislature created an advisory council, the Texas Energy Reliability Council, to encourage communication and address planning for emergency preparedness.

The Legislature also created the State Energy Plan Advisory Committee and charged the committee with preparing a state energy plan to evaluate and make recommendations to improve reliability, stability, and affordability of electric service in the state.

The PUC and ERCOT remain fully engaged to keep finding ways to improve the market. However, over the next several sessions, there will more work for the Legislature — and regulatory agencies — to spur new generating capacity, which remains a core concern.

And with Texas’ population continuing to grow at a fast rate, our energy needs will only increase. Not only must we add capacity to generate more electricity, that electricity must be reliable, affordable and carbon neutral. It is essential that Texas meet the objective of carbon neutrality so that our industries remain competitive and jobs and industrial growth are expanded.

An all-of-the above energy approach is needed to secure the Texas power grid for our future and any tactic that eliminates fossil fuels will lead to rolling blackouts like what routinely happens in California.

That is why gas-powered generation will need to play a large role and can do so in an environmentally conscious way. Through the deployment of Carbon Capture Underground Storage (CCUS) we can make natural gas facilities even cleaner, all while expanding Texas’ power grid.

Through the process of CCUS, CO2 is captured or removed from plant emissions and compressed into a concentrated stream. The CO2 is then ultimately utilized for value or injected into the ground to assure safe and permanent long-term storage.

Incentives in Texas to promote wind and solar have led to much broader deployment in our state than anywhere else in the United States, but renewables still do not provide close to the amount of reliable energy needed in the state. Now we need to focus on incentivizing CCUS. Federal incentives for CCUS by way of tax credits get us part of the way there, but more investment will be needed.

To encourage that investment, we need state incentives for low carbon power through state tax credits, economic development zones, or already existing programs such as the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP) that can serve an additional purpose. By promoting the use of clean fossil fuels, Texas can secure its power grid for generations to come.

Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by Susan Combs, the former Texas Comptroller and current Advisory Board Chairwoman of the Carbon Neutral Coalition. The column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian International News Service with the permission of the author. 

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