Powerful proclamation

Gov. Abbott promises ‘the lights will stay on’ if another winter storm hits Texas

Abbott promises ‘the lights will stay on’ if another winter storm hits

Austin Texas Capitol snow storm 2021
Last winter's massive storm led to millions of Texans losing power. Montinique Monroe / Getty Images

Who can forget the February deep freeze that crippled the state’s power grid, leaving millions of Texans without electricity and heat? Gov. Greg Abbott certainly can’t. And he’s now promising there won’t be a repeat this winter of February’s lights-out disaster. 

“I can guarantee the lights will stay on,” Abbott boldly told Austin’s Fox 7 TV station in an interview that aired November 26.

Abbott says his guarantee is backed by nearly a dozen measures he signed into law this year that make the state’s power grid more effective.

Beto O’Rourke, an El Paso Democrat and former Texas congressman now running to unseat Abbott, is hammering Abbott over what he believes is the governor’s lackluster response to the February storm. 

Abbott also is feeling the heat from Republican foes he’ll face in next year’s gubernatorial primary. For instance, Dallas businessman Don Huffines, a Republican who previously served in the state Senate, maintains “the carelessness of current leadership has ruined” the state’s power grid. On his website, Huffines declares Texas deserves a governor “who can keep the lights on.”

On Wednesday, December 1, power generators across Texas must notify the state Public Utility Commission about their winter weatherization plans, Fox 7 notes. If a massive storm slams Texas this winter, those plans will be put to the test.

Also bolstering Abbott’s optimism about the upcoming winter is that Texas utility providers report they’ve got 15 percent more power-generating capacity than they did last winter, according to Fox 7.

Ed Hirs, an energy expert at the University of Houston, describes Abbott’s lights-on guarantee as a “conditional” promise.

“Well, the governor is betting the weather stays mild, and if it gets cold, that the electric utilities are ready to go. There is no evidence that they are,” Hirs told Fox 7.

For his part, Abbott claims that natural gas pipeline operators have undertaken winterization work that most Texans aren’t aware of, and that the much-criticized Electric Reliability Council of Texas is better positioned to respond to a wintertime crisis. Taylor-based ERCOT oversees the majority of Texas’ power grid. Critics pin much of the blame for February’s power failure on an ill-prepared ERCOT.

“Last year, they were reactive and waited until a crisis mode before they summoned more power, more energy. Now, the way ERCOT works is they work days in advance in summoning that power to make sure they will have enough power to keep the lights on,” Abbott told Fox 7.

According to a report from the University of Texas Energy Institute, the February weather disaster claimed 57 lives statewide, caused more than 4.5 million Texas homes to lose power, and led to $195 billion in property damage.