Regulatory & Legislative

In the wake of winter storm Uri, ERCOT market participants are grappling with the resulting financial fallout. Many are now familiar with actions the Texas Public Utility Commission took during the February weather event with the intent to bring and maintain as much generation online as possible – notably ordering ERCOT to implement a temporary adjustment to the scarcity pricing mechanism designed to result in real time prices reaching the system-wide high offer cap at the statutory maximum of $9,000/mWh during the height of the generation forced outages.

Now, more than two months removed from the storm, the resulting financial impacts are having serious repercussions across the ERCOT market. Several retail electric providers have filed for bankruptcy, lawsuits are underway against a wide swath of market participants and regulators (ERCOT, the Public Utility Commission, generators, REPs, gas utilities, etc.), and countless market participants are faced with paying record-high bills for a range of reasons, including the need to procure energy in the real-time market during scarcity conditions, to obtain high priced gas supplies, to cover positions when their resources incurred outages, or exposure to uplift of default amounts owed to ERCOT. Complicating that, ERCOT has failed to pay many who did perform during the storm due to the short payment of some market participants, which means those who performed may not soon realize revenue associated with that performance. Additionally, the higher prices for power and ancillary services prompted ERCOT to substantially increase Counter-Party collateral requirements. Last month, the Public Utility Commission issued an order in Docket 51812 extending the deadline to dispute ERCOT invoices related to the winter event from 10 business days (under the current ERCOT Protocols) to six months. Since this order, the Commission has taken no additional action to address issues related to settlement invoices resulting from the storm.

Bottom Line Up Front: The Department of Energy (DOE) will implement new cybersecurity programs to enhance energy sector resilience. DOE’s announcement coincides with the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s support for the DOE’s Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER). Expect to see resilience to cyber attacks in future government procurement activities.

On March 18, 2021, CESER announced several new research programs designed to enhance the safety and resilience of the U.S. energy sector. The Trump administration established CESER to protect critical energy infrastructure by assisting oil, natural gas, and electricity industries secure their infrastructure. Currently, energy infrastructure faces threats not only from climate and natural hazards, but also evolving and increasing physical and cyber threats.

On Friday, May 1, 2020, President Trump issued a new Executive Order (the Bulk-Power Order) to prohibit transactions within the U.S. for the acquisition or installation of certain “bulk-power system electric equipment” which is sourced from foreign adversaries. In the Bulk-Power Order, President Trump expressed a determination that “the unrestricted foreign supply of bulk-power system

Back in November, MSHA head David Zatezalo indicated that MSHA’s initiative to “blur the lines” between coal and M/NM enforcement had ended. As an apparent follow-up, in late December MSHA released a new, unified M/NM and coal inspection handbook, and has now started training investigators on the new handbook.

Lawmakers of the 86th Texas Legislature passed several bills in regular session related to storage and cybersecurity, as well as a bill extending the expiration of a Chapter 312 tax abatement program that benefits renewable energy. These energy-related bills passed by the Texas Legislature are discussed below, as are notable bills that failed to gain traction this session.

By the time the March 8, 2019 bill filing deadline for the 86th Texas Legislature passed, many bills concerning the electric industry had been filed. Storage, cybersecurity of the electric grid, and capital project tax abatements are among the energy issues Texas lawmakers are considering. This reviews the major filed bills before the current Texas Legislature.

At the January 17, 2019 Open Meeting, the Public Utility Commission of Texas (Commission) addressed several highly contested issues, including storage, Operating Reserve Demand Curve, Real-Time Co-optimization, and Marginal Losses. First, in Project No. 48023, Rulemaking to Address the Use of Non-Traditional Technologies in Electric Delivery Service (the Battery Project), dealing with utility ownership of battery storage, the Commission decided to defer further action until Texas Legislature’s regular session concludes. This decision comes after 63 comments were filed with the Commission, expressing widely varying views on whether a transmission and distribution utility within ERCOT may legally own and operate battery storage facilities. The Commission previously submitted through its Scope of Competition Report a request for the Legislature to enact legislation clarifying this legal point.

The Public Utility Commission of Texas has finalized the recommendations it will include in its upcoming 2019 Report on the Scope of Competition in Electric Markets in Texas to the 86th Texas Legislature, which goes into session January 8, 2019. The Commission voted on the recommendations at its December 20, 2018 meeting; the most significant

The Texas Public Utility Commission has a new member with Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) appointment of Arthur D’Andrea to a six year term.  D’Andrea currently serves as assistant general counsel to Gov. Abbott and was previously an assistant solicitor general for the Texas Attorney General’s office.

This makes Gov. Abbott’s second appointment of the year, having named