Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke went head-to-head in a pre-election debate on Friday. The two spoke on issues like the state’s immigration, border security, education, abortion and gun violence. 

Abbott and O’Rourke were asked about the power grid crisis in Texas. In February last year, a winter storm left millions without power in freezing temperatures. At least 246 people died due to storm-related conditions.

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The governor, in November 2021, said that a roster of laws he signed will make the grid more effective. Greg Abbott explained that the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is working to be proactive. 

On Friday, Abbott said that Texas has some of the lowest power prices in the US. He added that the power grid is “stronger than ever” and that he is confident in its resiliency after a particularly hot summer.

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O’Rourke responded by recalling the blackouts in 2021. Abbott’s government had pushed natural gas prices to the highest allowable rate. 

“Now we are all paying $45 more on average on our monthly utility bills. It’s the Abbott tax.”

How does Texas electrical power grid work?

The power grid in the United States is divided into three sections: west, east and one portion serves Texas. 

Texas has four power grids in operation. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) grid covers 75% of the state territory and 90% of the population. 

Some western areas are covered by the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) and northern and eastern by the Southwest Power Pool (SPP). Southeastern Electric Reliability Council (SERC) controls power in the east. 

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While ERCOT exclusively serves Texas, others work in multiple states. 

The Texas power grid depends on internal resources to provide electricity. The state has the highest energy production in the US. 

Electricity in Texas comes from gas-fired power stations and wind turbines. Deregulation has helped Texas keep its electricity rates below the US average. However, the grid cannot draw power from neighboring states during an emergency.