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TX Power Reform Triggered by Winter Storm Uri Needs Public Input


Wednesday, January 19, 2022   

Not enough has been done to prevent another catastrophic power-grid failure such as the one in Texas last February, according to AARP Texas, which warns that consumers will foot the bill for what comes next.

A rare winter storm left millions without power and 246 Texans dead, almost two-thirds of them age 60 or older.

Tim Morstad, director of AARP Texas, estimated that gas and electric customers will pay more than $6 billion in their utility bills to cover cleanup costs from Winter Storm Uri, with none designated for grid improvements. He added that changes proposed by regulators to revamp the electric market lack cost analysis and public input.

"And ultimately it comes down to the pocketbook," he said, "because, while we all want and support a reliable electricity grid, we want to make sure we're getting what we pay for, and we want to make sure that the public's voice is heard."

While improvements may be needed and beneficial, Morstad said the initial price tag at $1.7 billion a year to be built into customers' utility bills is alarming.

In Katy, Lora Taylor and her husband were prepared for rolling blackouts predicted by their utility company as they cared for their special-needs daughter, who suffers seizures and requires breathing and suction machines. Instead, they spent 52 hours without power, and had to recharge the machines from a car battery.

"The trauma of the middle of the night and trying to literally keep her alive - when all the hospitals were filled, all of the roads were icy - was just overwhelming," she said.

Worried about a repeat of last year's storm, the Taylor family purchased a whole-house generator. Taylor said Texans shouldn't have to wait 10 years to make sure safeguards are in place.

"It's just beyond me, that we can't hold people's feet to the fire so that they have to invest to protect consumers," she said. "Every other state handles cold weather. Why can't we?"

Morstad noted that older Texans and medically vulnerable people are particularly sensitive to power outages and utility price hikes, with many living on a fixed income.

"The rub," he said, "is that the proposals being pursued are very expensive, haven't been proven to solve the problem that has been identified, and the pocketbooks are already being strained."

Disclosure: AARP Texas contributes to our fund for reporting on Energy Policy, Health Issues, Livable Wages/Working Families, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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