With winter approaching, questions loom over Texas grid readiness

Seven months after much of Texas was plunged into darkness by a winter storm both devastating and deadly, State Senators posed the critical question - Will our fragile, stand-alone electric grid be prepared for the cold season to come?

Brad Jones, Interim Director of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas offered a solid assurance that the lights and the heat will stay on.


"My commitment to you is that we understand winter is coming and we will be ready," said Jones at a hearing of the Senate Business and Commerce Committee.

To make that happen, ERCOT is relying heavily on a substantial increase in power held in reserve.

RELATED: ERCOT details plan for improving reliability of Texas power grid

As for "weather-proofing" electrical generators as ordered by the Legislature, turns out, it's still very much a work in progress.

"Who is weatherizing as we talk today, because that's what the constituents I'm representing want to know? Not ‘they better be', bull stuff. People are scared because it was such a horrendous experience," said State Senator John Whitmire.

RELATED: New report suggests Harris County was hardest hit in Texas by February freeze

"The deadline is December 1, so we are not inspecting anybody yet," answered Peter Lake, Chairman of the Public Utility Commission.

But the most disturbing revelation at Tuesday's hearing involved the natural gas pipelines and infrastructure critical to providing fuel to power plants.

RELATED: Governor Abbott signs measures aimed at preventing power grid blackouts

Wei Wang, Executive Director of the Texas Rail Road Commission which regulates the natural gas industry, conceded his agency isn't even close to launching the weatherization inspections ordered by the legislature.

"Weatherization for our agency is new territory. We don't have expertise at that," said Wang.

RELATED: Natural gas issues during winter storm result of power outages

Given the hundreds of deaths and billions in damage endured this past February, State Senator Donna Campbell of New Braunfels felt compelled to unload.

"A good seven months and you haven't assessed them all? You are in the process of getting inspectors out? Don't you think that's a little late, because we sure don't have seven months until our next winter starts? asked Campbell.

"I recognize the urgency," said Wang in response.

"I don't think you do!" said Campbell.

RELATED: Texas legislature passes several measures to address Big Freeze, but critic worries they're not enough

Governor Greg Abbott announced earlier this year that "everything that needs to be done has been done" by the legislature to safeguard the grid.

Senator Whitmire is among those who disagree, suggesting, "we are no better protected now" than when the winter storm blind-sided the Lone Star State.