EnergyStatewide NewsPower Grid Feature of Latest Bout Between Gov. Greg Abbott, Commissioner Sid Miller

Miller has frequently feuded with Abbott and this time the pair spar over the reliability of the ERCOT power grid.
August 9, 2022
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Republican Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, who once sued the sitting GOP governor, took another swing at him last week, this time over the state’s power grid.

“The Texas Grid is NOT secure!” reads a campaign email from Miller.

“Weather happens, but the real tragedy was a human failure…cozy relationships between regulators and industry, too much reliance on low capacity alternative energy, and profit seeking at the expense of safety and security such as winterizing natural gas infrastructure,” he added.

“While a few of these reforms,” Miller stated, referring to his own set of proposals after the 2021 blackouts, “have been adopted by the legislature and regulators, this summer has put the lie to the idea that we have made all of the reforms Texas needs.”

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas power grid, which covers the vast majority of Texas, has indeed been tested this summer. The heat, coupled with low wind generation output and unexpected thermal outages, sparked two conservation alerts in one week back in July.

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But both times, and every day since February 2021, the power grid held up. Any outages, whether during cold or hot weather, were local transmission issues such as downed power lines.

“As temperatures have spiked,” Miller stated, “regulators have repeatedly told us to turn off the lights, close the blinds, and keep our homes uncomfortably warm.”

“No. Just. No.”

Miller’s jabs at state leadership resemble those of his ideological opposites such as gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke and Luke Warford, the Democratic nominee for Texas Railroad Commission.

He added, “It is outrageous that in one of the most successful states, in the most successful country in the world, we can’t keep the lights on!”

Where Miller differs from those across the aisle is his invocation of “too much reliance on low capacity alternative energy,” a reference to the state’s growing reliance on renewable energy sources. O’Rourke and Warford hope to usher in an even greater transition to renewable sources, now a staple of the Texas Democratic Party’s platform.

Gov. Greg Abbott’s team hit back at Miller, who’s often been a thorn in their side.

“Anyone who says the Texas electric grid is not secure is not aware of how well it’s performed under recent record-breaking weather we’ve experienced as a result of the reforms passed by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Abbott,” a spokesman told the Texas Tribune.

“Since May, Texas has set and broken power demand records over 25 times without any system-wide issues or disruptions for the more than 26 million Texans served by the electric grid.”

The official then pointed to one change in particular — the 15 percent increase in available capacity through expanded-use peaker plants initiated in December 2021 — as one reform keeping another collapse at bay.

While the grid’s resilience has passed the tests since February 2021, the reforms and increased operational caution have led to higher electricity prices. Increased reliability, which the state has repeatedly emphasized as the new feature of the power grid, costs money.

The pair spars frequently for elected statewide officials of the same party. In 2020, Miller was one of a handful of officials that sued Abbott over his unilateral week-extension of early voting by executive order, without legislative approval. The next year, he sued Lt. Governor Dan Patrick over the Senate’s coronavirus testing mandate to enter the chamber.

Back in April, Miller publicly criticized Abbott’s enhanced border inspection policy, a move that led to a massive commercial trade backlog and then security agreements with the Mexican states bordering Texas.

Miller won his primary by a wide margin, but his opponent, state Rep. James White (R-Hillister), received lots of support from Capitol insiders and elected officials — including a vote of confidence from Patrick.

Right before the primary, Miller stumped for Abbott’s primary opponents Allen West, Don Huffines, and Chad Prather. Miller himself had mulled a primary challenge to Abbott but ultimately opted for re-election.

There is no love lost between the two statewide Republicans and the issues on which their feud meters out continue to grow.

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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.