Why Does Texas Have Its Own Power Grid?


Texas’ secessionist inclinations have at the very least one fashionable outlet: the electrical grid. There are three grids within the Lower 48 states: the Eastern Interconnection, the Western Interconnection — and Texas.

The Texas grid is named ERCOT, and it’s run by an company of the identical title — the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. ERCOT doesn’t really cover all of Texas. El Paso is on one other grid, as is the higher Panhandle and a bit of East Texas. This presumably has to do with the historical past of assorted utilities’ service territories and the remoteness of the non-ERCOT areas (for instance the Panhandle is nearer to Kansas than to Dallas, notes Kenneth Starcher of the Alternative Energy Institute in Canyon), however Texplainer remains to be determining the particulars on this.

The separation of the Texas grid from the remainder of the nation has its origins within the evolution of electrical utilities early final century. In the a long time after Thomas Edison turned on the country’s first power plant in Manhattan in 1882, small producing vegetation sprouted throughout Texas, bringing electrical gentle to cities. Later, notably through the first world conflict, utilities began to link themselves together. These ties, and the accompanying transmission community, grew additional through the second world conflict, when a number of Texas utilities joined collectively to kind the Texas Interconnected System, which allowed them to hyperlink to the massive dams alongside Texas rivers and likewise ship additional electrical energy to assist the ramped-up factories aiding the conflict effort.


The Texas Interconnected System — which for a very long time was really operated by two discrete entities, one for northern Texas and one for southern Texas — had one other precedence: staying out of the attain of federal regulators. In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Federal Power Act, which charged the Federal Power Commission with overseeing interstate electrical energy gross sales. By not crossing state traces, Texas utilities averted being subjected to federal guidelines. “Freedom from federal regulation was a cherished goal — more so because Texas had no regulation until the 1970s,” writes Richard D. Cudahy in a 1995 article, “The Second Battle of the Alamo: The Midnight Connection.” (Self-reliance was additionally made simpler in Texas, particularly within the early days, as a result of the state has substantial coal, pure fuel and oil resources of its personal to gas energy vegetation.)


ERCOT was shaped in 1970, within the wake of a significant blackout within the Northeast in November 1965, and it was tasked with managing grid reliability in accordance with nationwide requirements. The company assumed further duties following electrical deregulation in Texas a decade in the past. The ERCOT grid remains beyond the jurisdiction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which succeeded the Federal Power Commission and regulates interstate electrical transmission.

Historically, the Texas grid’s independence has been violated a number of occasions. Once was throughout World War II, when particular provisions have been made to hyperlink Texas to different grids, based on Cudahy. Another episode occurred in 1976 after a Texas utility, for causes referring to its personal regulatory wants, intentionally flipped a change and despatched energy to Oklahoma for a number of hours. This occasion, often called the “Midnight Connection,” set off a significant authorized battle that might have introduced Texas beneath the jurisdiction of federal regulators, but it surely was in the end resolved in favor of continued Texan independence.


Even in the present day, ERCOT can also be not utterly remoted from different grids — as was evident when the state imported some power from Mexico through the rolling blackouts of 2011. ERCOT has three ties to Mexico and — as an end result of the “Midnight Connection” battle — it additionally has two ties to the japanese U.S. grid, although they don’t set off federal regulation for ERCOT. All can transfer energy commercially in addition to be utilized in emergencies, based on ERCOT spokeswoman Dottie Roark. A possible sixth interconnection project, in Rusk County, is being studied, and one other bold proposal, referred to as Tres Amigas, would hyperlink the three large U.S. grids collectively in New Mexico, although Texas’ high utility regulator has proven little enthusiasm for collaborating.


Bottom line: Texas has its personal grid to keep away from coping with the feds.

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