Texas Adopts Rules for NatGas/Power Coordination to Avoid Feb Freeze

(Reuters) — The Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas adopted rules to increase coordination between the natural gas and electricity industries to avoid blackouts and other energy emergencies like last winter's February freeze.

The rules are the latest in a series of federal and state measures to prevent a repeat of the disruption caused by February's Winter Storm Uri, which killed more than 100 people and left around 4.5 million homes and businesses in Texas without power and heat - in many cases for days.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which operates most of the state's power grid, ordered rolling blackouts to prevent the grid from collapsing as extreme cold shut power plants and froze gas pipelines.

At the same time, power and gas prices soared to record highs in parts of Texas and in other U.S. Central states during the storm, costing utilities and their consumers billions of dollars that will have to be paid back over several years.

The Texas PUC said in a release on Wednesday it adopted rules in a joint effort with the Railroad Commission of Texas, which oversees the state's oil and gas industries, related to critical gas facilities that supply fuel to electric generators.

The rule requires electric utilities to prioritize power services to critical gas facilities during energy emergencies.

One of the problems during the February freeze was that power was turned off to some gas facilities that provide fuel to electric generators, which forced the power plants to shut due to a lack of fuel.

"For the first time ever, the electric transmission and distribution utilities will know the locations of the facilities which are critical to keeping natural gas flowing to the power plants that keep our lights on," PUC Chairman Peter Lake said in the release.

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