Saturday’s brief electricity outage in parts of East Dallas wasn’t as drastic as Katrina or what Sandy did to the northeast (though it did close the Aldi at Abrams and Northwest Highway). But it was the third time in the last three weeks that I had to reset my clocks – after another power outage just before Halloween and for the end of daylight savings time. That gets old very quickly.
It also points to something that the Texas Legislature needs to address when it meets in January, but almost certainly won’t, given that it is the Texas Legislature and the only thing it knows about mistakes is that other people make them.
For one thing, we don’t have enough plants producing energy, thanks to the Lege’s genius in de-regulating the electricity market in 2002. Lawmakers assumed that the price of power would always go up, so there would be incentive to build new power plants. In fact, the price has gone down, thanks to cheap natural gas, so no one is building plants. Brantley Hargrove at the Observer has done a nice job explaining this not very easy to explain concept.
For another, Oncor, which administers the electrical system in this part of Texas (repairing lines, fixing outages, and so forth), is part of something called Energy Future Holdings, which used to be TXU. But the Lege, in another fit of genius, allowed some big money wise guys to take TXU private, and the resulting Energy Future is close to bankruptcy. And no one is quite sure how that will affect Oncor and its ability to keep the power on.