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Gov. Abbott says ERCOT inspections will ensure power grid is 'more resilient' this winter

The governor tweeted Sunday, looking to assure Texans that ERCOT is working to prevent winter power outages if severe winter weather returns.

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is hoping to assure state residents that the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is taking steps to avoid another winter blackout like the one that left many Texans in the dark in February.

Abbott said in a tweet Sunday that ERCOT is working to inspect more than 300 natural gas, nuclear, coal, wind and solar generation plants by the end of the year to be prepared for severe winter weather.

"This will ensure the power grid is more resilient and reliable this winter," Abbott said in the tweet.

The Public Utility Commission of Texas approved a rule requiring energy providers to winterize their facilities according to the recommendations made in a 2011 and 2012 reports following severe winter weather that also caused power outages in the state back in 2011.

The new rule, according to PUC filings, was referred to the first phase in improving power grid reliability in the winter.

"This project represents the first of two phases in the commission's development of robust weather emergency preparedness reliability standards and will help ensure that the electric industry is prepared to provide continuous reliable electric service throughout this upcoming winter weather season," a PUC memorandum on the topic read.

The memo continued, adding that the second phase of the project would "consist of a more comprehensive, year-round set of weather emergency preparedness reliability standards that will be informed by a robust weather study" conducted by ERCOT and the Office of the Texas State Climatologist.

The rule states that companies had until Dec. 1 to comply with the new winterization rules.

The PUC approved the new rule months after Gov. Abbott signed bills into law addressing the issues that arose during the winter storm.

"The legislature passed comprehensive reforms to fix all of the flaws that led to the power failure," Abbott said at the time of the signing back in June. 

   

However, even with government and energy leaders passing legislation, rules and requirements, some experts say it's not enough to prevent another winter blackout should severe winter weather return. Energy experts told The Texas Tribune the new rules provide "too much wiggle room for companies to avoid weatherization improvements."

Furthermore, ERCOT was one of latest organizations that published a report showing the state is not prepared to handle another extreme winter event, contrasting with what Abbott has been saying about Texas power grid improvements and tweeted about Sunday morning.

Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke also tweeted about the power grid's reliability saying that "Abbott is betting our lives on the weather." The Democratic candidate shared the tweet along with a report from KVUE's sister station in San Antonio, KENS, where Abbott guaranteed the lights would stay on through the winter.

O'Rourke also spoke about the winter storm, its impact and the state government's response, criticizing Abbott Saturday night at a campaign stop in Austin. 

"We've got a governor who does not trust the people of this state," O'Rourke told supporters gathered at Republic Square Park. "He did not trust those in Texas who warned him if we do not weatherize the grid, if we do not hold those power companies, CEOs and gas supply CEOs accountable, then we might very well lose the ability to keep one another alive."

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