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Vol 52-2 Utilities

October 4, 2022


Texas’ Response to Winter Storm Uri – Structure of Electricity Markets and Risk Management


In February 2021, Winter Storm Uri shocked the electricity market in Texas and caused millions of customers to go without electricity, heat, or running water for days in freezing temperatures.[1] When the power finally came back on, members of the electricity market and individual customers were further shocked by astronomical prices driven by high demand during a period of very short supply.[2] During the 2021 Texas Legislative session, several bills were passed to address the problems made apparent by the winter storm.[3] The Texas Legislature focused on several key areas of improvement. One of the main areas of concern included regulating the structure of the electricity market and implementing risk mitigation strategies for future market disruption. This included implementing changes that required rulemaking procedures by state agencies including the Public Utility Commission of Texas (“PUC”) and the Texas Railroad Commission (“RRC”).[4] While the Texas legislature made significant legislative changes to support the power grid, these changes will take time and may not have a significant impact for several years.[5]

Senate Bill 3 – A Comprehensive Bill

Senate Bill 3 was one of the most expansive bills to address the structure of the electricity market and the mitigation of risk related to future market disruptions.[6] Among other things, it required the PUC to undertake rulemaking procedures to create requirements for the weatherization of power systems.[7] The PUC implemented Phase 1 of these rules to address current market needs.[8] These rules were met by 321 out of the 324 electric generation units and transmission facilities that ERCOT inspected by January 18, 2022.[9] Phase 2 will be a longer process which will elaborate on these rules and take ERCOT’s weather report into consideration.[10] Additionally, a bond issuance was approved to finance weatherization and to support customers who faced abnormally high bills from February 2021.[11] While this financing helps mitigate the up-front cost associated with both weatherization and utility bills, it will increase customer payments in the form of additional utility charges for years to come.[12] 

Senate Bill 3 also required the PUC to undergo rulemaking allocating load shedding among different electrical facilities and categorizing circuits as critical based on historical peak demand.[13] During Winter Storm Uri the power supply could not support the power demand, resulting in involuntary load shedding in the form of rolling blackouts that left many customers without power for days.[14] This was due in part to ERCOT underestimating the severity of the demand.[15] Amended rules regarding involuntary load shedding took effect on January 6, 2022.[16] This bill also required the PUC to enact rulemaking focused on improving emergency planning, lowering the price cap during periods with limited availability, and increasing the strength of penalties for failing to follow regulations.[17] While the PUC undertook rulemaking that reduced the price cap from $9,000/MWh to $5,000/MWh, the reduced cap was not restricted to periods of limited availability.[18] In response to several of the directives in Senate Bill 3 and other legislation related to Winter Storm Uri, the PUC undertook to reform the ERCOT wholesale electricity market in a “Blueprint” that detailed the two-phase reform plan.[19] There were several references to these changes in the January 13, 2022 Blueprint to implement many directives related to reforming the wholesale electricity market as future next steps.[20] While the classification system for violations has been amended to include violations of weatherization requirements,[21] natural gas facilities that are not voluntarily deemed “critical” are exempted from the penalties.[22] Because of this exemption, the natural gas sector and the RRC have drawn criticism from many, including the legislators who wrote Senate Bill 3.[23] While the RRC argues that listing every natural gas facility as “critical” would negatively impact the availability of electricity to everyone else,[24] this argument misses the point. The concern is not whether all natural gas facilities are critical; the concern is whether all natural gas facilities are required to weatherize in case of emergency. 

In addition to these comprehensive changes to the energy market itself, Senate Bill 3 also expanded the governance of the electricity market.[25] While other bills made changes to the existing structure in ERCOT[26] and the PUC,[27] Senate Bill 3 created three new governing bodies to help implement the changes established in the bill. First, the Texas Energy Reliability Council (“TERC”) exists to “(1) ensure that the energy and electric industries in [Texas] meet high priority human needs and address critical infrastructure concerns; and (2) enhance coordination and communication in the energy and electric industries in [Texas].”[28] The bill requires that TERC to obtain utility information related to disasters and mandates that public utilities and gas providers supply any such information.[29] Second, the Texas Electricity Supply Chain Security and Mapping Committee (“TESCSMC”) was created to map the electrical supply chain in Texas, identify critical infrastructure sources, establish best practices for preparing facilities to maintain services in the event of extreme weather, recommend oversight and compliance standards for these purposes, and prioritize service needs to prepare for, respond to, and recover from extreme weather.[30] TESCSMC was required to submit a report related to their newly assigned duties by January 1, 2022 and must complete the map by September 1, 2022. Last, the State Energy Plan Advisory Committee (“SEPAC”) functions to create a comprehensive state energy plan no later than September 1, 2022, in order to identify barriers, provide recommendations to overcome or remove those barriers, and evaluate methods to improve electric service, including ancillary services and emergency response.[31] 

Senate Bill 1281 – Updating Regulation of Transmission Projects

Another significant bill passed to address the structure of the market and mitigate the risk of future disruptions was Senate Bill 1281.[32] One priority of this bill was to expand the exception from obtaining a certificate of convenience and necessity (“CCN”).[33] An electric utility is required to obtain a CCN before building new transmission lines.[34] The previous exception to the CCN requirement applied to transmission lines between substations or customers if (1) the new line did not exceed one mile and (2) affected landowners whose property is crossed gave prior written consent.[35] The new codified exception expanded these criteria to apply when (1) transmission lines do not exceed 3 miles for connections to customers or 2 miles for generation connections, (2) all directly affected landowners give consent, and (3) necessary rights-of-way have been purchased.[36] The previous CCN exception existed in the PUC’s rules, but with the new legislation, the PUC must initiate rulemaking to adopt the new standard.[37] In addition to this expansion, the legislation aimed to refocus the review of proposed projects onto reliability criteria.[38] This included consideration of historical load, forecasted load growth, additional load seeking interconnection, and an analysis of the cost and benefits to consumers.[39] The PUC has not yet opened rulemaking procedures to incorporate these changes. Another goal of this bill was to create a mandatory biennial reliability assessment to be conducted by ERCOT that “consider[s] the impact of different levels of thermal and renewable generation availability; and recommend[s] transmission projects that may increase the grid’s reliability in extreme weather scenarios.”[40] 

House Bill 16 – Protecting Residential and Small Commercial Customers

House Bill 16 aimed to revamp the structure of the electricity market and focused on increasing regulation of certain retail electric products, specifically related to wholesale indexed power products and fixed rate products.[41] An aggregator, broker, or retail electric provider cannot offer wholesale indexed products to residential or small commercial customers, but they may continue to offer these products to other customers as long as they obtain signed acknowledgement of the associated risk from the customer.[42] This restriction helps protect residential or small business customers from the exponential price increases due to wholesale prices in times of extreme demand. In addition to limiting exposure to wholesale indexed pricing, this legislation updated notice requirements regarding the expiration of a fixed rate product.[43] Now, when a fixed rate contract is set to expire, the provider must provide three written notices in evenly distributed intervals during the last third of the contract period and the final notice must include terms for the default renewal product.[44] Any default renewal product must be clearly communicated in the contract and in the final notice, must be month to month, and the customer must be able to cancel at any time without a fee.[45] Failure to comply with the notice requirements results in the provider continuing to provide the fixed-rate product until proper notice is given or the customer selects a different product.[46] The PUC undertook rulemaking procedures to implement the requirements of House Bill 16, and these updated rules became effective as of January 6, 2022.[47]


While the Texas legislature took steps toward solving the problems with the Texas electricity market, the work has just begun.[48] The sheer amount of change required by the legislation will take years to implement, as demonstrated by the multi-phased plans proposed by PUC and ERCOT.[49] While some have claimed that sufficient change has been made to survive the “test” of the 2022 winter season, this most recent winter season did not compare to Winter Storm Uri.[50] The new legislation and regulation resulting from Winter Storm Uri is a significant step in the right direction, but the Texas electricity market has a long way to go to implement these changes and successfully shift the focus of the market to reliability.  


Michelle White is a 3L living in Hutto, Texas. Originally from Wimberley, Texas, she attended Texas A&M University before working for several years in Human Resources in Dallas. She joined TELJ her first semester of law school. During summer of 2022, she worked at Lloyd Gosselink and Naman Howell.


Alisha Mehta is an attorney in the Environmental and Legislative section of Jackson Walker’s Austin office. She focuses on permitting and water matters, including real estate developers and special utility districts and counsels clients on transactional and regulatory issues before the Public Utility Commission of Texas.


[1] See Joshua Fechter, Texas’ Power Grid Held Up During Last Week’s Winter Weather. Experts Say It Wasn’t Seriously Tested, The Tribune (Feb. 8, 2022),

[2] SourceMedia Bond Buyer, Texas Storm Uri, a Year Later: Financial, Political Fallout Lingers, Fidelity (Feb. 7, 2022),

[3] Texas Legislative Response to Winter Storm Uri, Baker Botts (July 7, 2021),

[4] See Tex. S.B. 3, 87th Leg., R.S. (2021); see Tex. S.B. 1281, 87th Leg., R.S. (2021); see Tex. H.B. 16, 87th Leg., R.S. (2021).   

[5] Fechter, supra note 1.

[6] See Tex. S.B. 3, 87th Leg., R.S. (2021).

[7] Id.

[8] 16 Tex. Admin. Code § 25.55 (2022) (Pub. Util. Comm’n of Tex., Weather Emergency Preparedness).  

[9] Final Winterization Report: Texas Grid Ready for Winter Weather Operations, ERCOT (Jan. 18, 2022), 

[10] Pub. Util. Comm’n of Tex., Ord. Adopting New 16 TAC § 25.55 as Approved at the Oct. 21, 2021 Open Meeting, 46 Tex. Reg. 5659, 5698 (2021).

[11] Tex. S.B. 3, 87th Leg., R.S. (2021).

[12] Scott Friedman, What Texas Lawmakers Did (And Did Not Do) to Address the Power Crisis, NBC DFW (June 2, 2021),

[13] Tex. S.B. 3, 87th Leg., R.S. (2021).

[14] The Timeline and Events of the February 2021 Texas Electric Grid Blackouts, The Univ. of Tex. at Austin, Energy Inst. (July 2021),

[15] Id.

[16] 16 Tex. Admin. Code § 25.479 (2022) (Pub. Util. Comm’n of Tex., Issuance and Format of Bills).

[17] Tex. S.B. 3, 87th Leg., R.S. (2021).

[18] 16 Tex. Admin. Code § 25.505 (2021) (Pub. Util. Comm’n of Tex., Reporting Requirements and the Scarcity Pricing Mechanism in the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas Power Region). 

[19] Pub. Util. Comm’n of Tex., Approval of Blueprint for Wholesale Electric Market Design and Directives to ERCOT, Project No. 52373 (Jan. 13, 2022),

[20] Id.

[21] 47 Tex. Reg. 1226, 1240 (2022) (to be codified at 16 Tex. Admin. Code § 25.8). 

[22] Tex. S.B. 3, 87th Leg., R.S. (2021).

[23] Mitchell Ferman, Texas senators blast regulator for power grid winterization loophole lawmakers wrote into law, The Texas Tribune (Sept. 28, 2021),

[24] Christian Flores, Railroad Commission implements weatherization law after reports and experts raise concerns, CBS Austin (Nov. 30, 2021),,of%20%241%20million%20per%20day

[25] Tex. S.B. 3, 87th Leg., R.S. (2021).

[26] Tex. S.B. 2, 87th Leg., R.S. (2021).

[27] Tex. S.B. 2154, 87th Leg., R.S. (2021).

[28] Tex. S.B. 3, 87th Leg., R.S. (2021).

[29] Id.

[30] Id.

[31] Id.

[32] Tex. S.B. 1281, 87th Leg., R.S. (2021).

[33] Id.

[34] Texas Legislative Response to Winter Storm Uri, Baker Botts (July 7, 2021),

[35] Id.

[36] Tex. S.B. 1281, 87th Leg., R.S. (2021).

[37] Id.

[38] Id.

[39] Id

[40] Id.

[41] Tex. H.B. 16, 87th Leg., R.S. (2021).   

[42] Id.

[43] Id.

[44] Id.

[45] Id.

[46] Id.

[47] 46 Tex. Reg. 9233, 9269 (2021) (to be codified at 16 Tex. Admin. Code §§ 25.43, 25.471, 25.475, 25.479, 25.498, 25.499). 

[48] Herman K. Trabish, Texas just dodged a repeat of 2021 outages, but its power sector has a long way to go, analysts say, UtilityDive (Feb. 25, 2022),

[49] Id.

[50] Id.