houston off the grid?

Harris County politician powers push to switch Houston off ERCOT grid

Harris County politician powers push to switch Houston off ERCOT grid

Adrian Garcia head shot
Pioneering politico Adrian Garcia wants Houston out of ERCOT's jurisdiction.  Photo courtesy of County Commissioner Adrian Garcia

With the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) currently under intense scrutiny, a lawsuit, and now, sudden resignations, a Harris County politician is powering a major push to get his county off the grid.

Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia announced that he is asking the Commissioners Court to explore "what steps in regards to state statute and electricity infrastructure would need to be taken to remove Harris County from the service area of independent system operators that are primarily governed by the Public Utility Commission of Texas, such as the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT)."

The agenda item review is scheduled for Friday, February 26, according to a press release.

This agenda item would ask the County Attorney’s Office what powers the Court or other county elected officials possess to place Harris County in the service area of an electric grid not primarily governed by state agencies, including the Public Utility Commission of Texas, according to Garcia’s office.

To expand on his argument and request, Garcia released the following statement:

In 2011, state officials promised to get to the bottom of why widespread power outages resulted from a hard freeze. No significant actions were taken. In 2013, much of Texas was introduced to then-Attorney General Greg Abbott, who was the first state officeholder to respond to the explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, TX.

No significant changes came from state action to further prevent a similar disaster from happening. In fact, as recently as January of 2020, in response to several plant explosions happening in a short period of time locally, Governor Abbott tweeted that ‘Texas will work with Houston and Harris County on strategies to reduce—and hopefully eliminate—them’. That also never happened.

I can’t speak for the other members of court, but I am concerned with the State’s leadership inability to keep promises they have made to their constituents during disasters. This agenda item is meant to explore how we in Harris County can take ownership of keeping residents safe, something the state has clearly shown it can’t be trusted to do itself.

For some perspective, Houston’s neighboring Liberty County is currently one of several in East Texas that are in the service area of the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), Garcia’s office notes.

MISO is listed as an independent and regional transmission organization. In regards to jurisdiction, its regulation and oversight falls under the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and is in the Eastern Interconnect grid.

CultureMap will update this story as it develops.