Greg Casar

U.S. Rep. Greg Casar (D-Texas) speaks to a reporter on the House steps in Washington, D.C. on April 20, 2023.

(Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images)

Greg Casar Drafting Bill to Connect Texas to National Electric Grids

"Whether we're in the middle of a heatwave or a winter storm, Texas should be able to keep the lights on," said the congressman.

Motivated by this summer's extreme heat and a devastating winter storm a couple of years ago, Democratic Texas Congressman Greg Casar announced Thursday that he is working on federal legislation to connect the state to national electric grids.

About 90% of the Lone Star State is covered by a grid operated by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) while the rest of the continental United States is served by the Eastern Interconnection and Western Interconnection, which are divided by the Rocky Mountains.

"The state has long refused to connect its grid in an attempt to avoid federal standards and consumer protections," Casar's office explained in a statement Thursday. "The U.S. Congress has the legal authority to require Texas to connect to the national grids to protect consumers, improve electric reliability nationwide, and safely regulate commerce."

Confirming his plans for a bill requiring the state to connect to national grids, Casar declared that "whether we're in the middle of a heatwave or a winter storm, Texas should be able to keep the lights on. This legislation will help consumers, improve the economy, generate more clean power, and save lives."

Texas' grid garnered national attention when it failed in February 2021, during Winter Storm Uri. The Texas Department of State Health Services put the official death toll at 246, but BuzzFeed Newsestimated the cold conditions and power outages may have killed 700 people.

In addition to leaving millions of people without electricity or water, the 2021 winter weather in the state potentially caused $100 billion in economic damages, according to research from a Texas-based team published in IOPscience earlier this year.

Casar's office pointed to a report that showed "each additional gigawatt of transmission tied between the Texas power grid and the Southeastern U.S. could have saved nearly $1 billion, while keeping the heat on for hundreds of thousands of Texans."

Winter Storm Uri and the hot summer that followed spurred conversations about whether Texas should connect to national grids.

Two years later, "the Texas power grid survived another close call" last week, barely avoiding rolling blackouts, according toTexas Public Radio. That came amid unprecedented extreme heat that scientists say is tied to humanity's continued use of climate-wrecking fossil fuels.

In addition to pushing for legislation to connect Texas to national grids, Casar has joined with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) to fight for the Connecting Hard-to-Reach Areas With Renewably Generated Energy (CHARGE) Act, which would establish infrastructure needed to boost reliability, cut costs, and spark clean energy innovation.

"As the climate crisis worsens, we must do everything we can to increase grid reliability across the country. That's why we must pass the CHARGE Act," Casar said when they introduced the bill last month. "Every single family should be able to rely on their utilities."

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