Official suggesting county leave ERCOT
Harris County should consider leaving the state’s main power grid after it failed to prevent widespread blackouts for more than half of Houston-area residents last week, Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia said
Garcia has asked the Commissioners Court to explore what authority it has to sever ties with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which oversees the grid that powers all of the state except for El Paso, parts of the Panhandle and a group of counties in East Texas.
“This agenda item is meant to explore how we in Harris County can take ownership of keeping residents safe, something the state has clearly shown it can’t be trusted to do itself,” Garcia said in a statement.
Garcia, a Democrat who represents east Harris County, said the state failed to adequately protect its electricity infrastructure after widespread blackouts in 2011 exposed vulnerabilities to winter weather.
He suggested that the county could join the East Texas grid, the Midcontinental Independent System Operator, which unlike ERCOT crosses state lines and is
overseen by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Liberty County, which borders Harris County to the east, is part of MISO. That grid also suffered outages during the storm, when demand for electricity overwhelmed supply, but they were less severe than those within ERCOT’s system.
What ability, if any, Harris County has to leave ERCOT is unclear. First Assistant County Attorney Jay Aiyer said such a move would almost certainly require approval by the Legislature. As subdivisions of state government, commissioners courts have few independent powers; they cannot even enact ordinances.
Aiyer said Harris County also will examine what actions, if any, the Legislature takes this session to reform ERCOT or the Public Utility Commission to prevent future blackouts.
CenterPoint Energy, which supplies electricity for the Houston region, declined to comment on Garcia’s proposal.
The Commissioners Court will take up Garcia’s proposal Friday.