Reforming Critical Infrastructure
SB 3 addresses a number of concerns that were raised by the state’s response to Storm Uri in February 2021. In addition to requiring state agencies to work together to implement a power outage alert system to be activated when the state’s power supply is stressed, the Legislature increased transparency in, and oversight of, PUC and ERCOT and prevented consumers from facing skyrocketing bills as a result of a severe weather event. Legislators also placed a focus on expanding rural broadband access.
Improving the State’s Response to Extreme Weather Events – SENATE BILL 3 addresses a number of concerns raised by the state’s response to Storm Uri in February 2021. The bill establishes a committee responsible for mapping the state's electricity supply chain and designating high-priority electricity service needs during extreme weather. The bill requires gas supply chain facilities, gas pipelines, electric generation facilities, transmission providers, and water utilities to satisfy standards for emergency preparedness. The bill also requires several state agencies to work together to implement a power outage alert system to be activated when the state’s power supply is stressed. SB 3 is a strong set of reforms that will help the state better respond to future extreme weather events.
Rural Broadband Access - House Bill 5 implements several measures to increase broadband access throughout the state. More than 300,000 locations in Texas are not served by broadband providers and roughly 90 percent of all Texans without access to broadband live in Texas’s rural areas. HB 5 establishes the Broadband Development Office and tasks it with developing a long-term plan for broadband access throughout the state. The bill also creates the Broadband Development Account in the general revenue fund, which will hold funds (including federal funds) that may be spent only on broadband development projects.
SENATE BILL 2 increases oversight in the selection of the leadership of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), requires the chairman to be selected by the governor and confirmed by the Senate, and requires all changes to ERCOT protocols to be presented to the Public Utility Commission (PUC) before adoption.
SENATE BILL 2154 increases the oversight and effectiveness of the PUC by increasing the membership from three to five members, requiring all members to reside in Texas, and providing more stringent eligibility requirements for the members.
HOUSE BILL 4492 reduces the energy cost that customers would otherwise experience as a one-time cost due to the extraordinary costs that electric utilities incur to secure electric supply and provide service during disasters.
SENATE BILL 2116 authorizes the governor to designate certain countries as a threat to critical infrastructure. The bill would prohibit businesses and governmental entities in Texas from entering into an agreement relating to critical infrastructure in Texas with a company that would have, under such agreement, access to control of the infrastructure if the company is controlled by citizens of China, Iran, North Korea, Russia, or a country designated by the governor, or is headquartered in one of those countries.
HOUSE BILL 3853 allows electric utilities to operate as broadband transmission companies using their own infrastructure, making broadband services available to parts of Texas that are currently underserved.