As one of the most rebellious states in the Union, Texas has always walked to the beat of its own drum. Boasting a larger-than-life attitude has given them a reputation for greatness, which was born out of self-reliance when the state became official in 1845. And when they say “Don’t Mess with Texas”, they mean don’t mess with their power supply. Why is that? Because Texas has its own power grid!
It’s amazing to think that an entire state is powered by its own power grid, but even more shocking to know that there are only two other power grids within the whole continental US. The other two are divided into the Eastern Interconnection and Western Interconnection and lace power to several states across the nation. So why is it that Texas got its own grid – and how?
Texas Has the Power
A feature of success for any great business venture has always been “location, location, location”, which contributes heavily in allowing Texas to go off the grid and create its own electricity. Taking this into account, having the Electric Reliability Council of Texas in your backyard is definitely a plus. The majority of residents live within the same region as the ERCOT. Literally a power house in the state of Texas, the location generates enough juice to supply its own power, leaving the Eastern and Western Connections in the dust.
But the location of the power plant doesn’t weigh as heavy as the history behind the placement of ERCOT. That goes back to World War II when all the factories in Texas were churning out planes and ammunition for the war efforts. At that time, the Texas Interconnected System was created as a reliable way to keep assembly lines in full throttle without depending on distant states. The fact that Texas is rich in natural resources, including coal and gas, also helped to sway the decision even more resolutely.
As a self-contained state of power, Texas has decided not to break down its power supply to interstate customers, which keeps the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission at bay. The Lone Star State’s residents are therefore exempt from government regulations on transmission standards and kilowatt prices. But are they really better off on their own?
For as long as Texas has drawn from its own power, the state is not without turmoil over the decision. The historical event coined “Midnight Connection” occurred in 1976 when a Texas utility plant briefly sent power to Oklahoma. Just recently ERCOT imported power from Mexico in which it has three ties to the country.
With the push for green energy, ERCOT may be under fire with the Environmental Protection Agency for pollution violations. Because ERCOT in its present state was formed in 1970 many of the plants are subject to updates which means they’ll have to go offline during the process. This jolt in distribution could have adverse effects on the state of the grid and force it to rely on ties to the other two grids.
Being self-reliant has its perks and certainly suits the way Texas gets things done. But the future of the grid may be in the balance with the transition to greener energy and cleaner fuel sources.
Syd Martin writes for Premiere Tree Services and enjoys writing articles on green living, environmental issues and nature.