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HomeinvestmentShifting Texas needs from ‘fixing the grid’ to investing in the future

Shifting Texas needs from ‘fixing the grid’ to investing in the future

Texas’ growth story is nothing short of remarkable. From July 2022 to July 2023, Texas once again had one of the fastest-growing economies in the United States, while also welcoming more than 473,00 new residents, outpacing every other state. Our economic might has become part of our Texas identity.
Yet, beneath the surface of Texas’s remarkable success, pressure is mounting on our electric infrastructure. Over the past two summers, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas recorded 21 new consumption records due to residential growth, industrial electrification and extreme weather events. Put another way: electricity consumption spiked more in the past two summers than in the prior 12 years combined.
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These records are likely to be broken. Predictions for the summer of 2024 suggest another hot summer ahead, paired with growing electricity demand.
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It’s easy to see why Texas is breaking consumption records. Current projections estimate that Texas will gain 17 million new residents by 2050 (more than the entire state of Pennsylvania). Use of electric vehicles, including long-haul trucks, will continue to grow. Plus, with the significant incentives for large industries, manufacturing and oil and gas to electrify, existing businesses will require more electricity.
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At the heart of this discussion lies the undeniable truth: electricity is the lifeblood of Texas’ prosperity.
As Dan Brouillette, president of the Edison Electric Institute, noted, while electricity makes up roughly 5% of the GDP, “It is the very first 5% of the GDP because the American economy, indeed the world economy, depends upon the provision of electricity for so much of our lives.”
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Which is to say, assuring Texas residents and businesses that they can count on the reliable delivery of affordable electricity is fundamental to maintaining Texas’ status as the eighth-largest economy in the world.
While state policymakers and regulators have made improvements to the grid since February 2021, the needs go further than “fixing the grid.” We need to grow the grid through constant, predictable and meaningful investment in electric generation, transmission and distribution.
Electric companies in Texas are investing in the grid and doing their part to serve more people and maintain reliability while minimizing costs. But without continuous investment, Texas faces a future marred by grid instability and uncertainty, placing the well-being of every Texan and our economy in jeopardy.
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Residential growth in the state continues to outpace that of any other state. And with the proliferation of data centers, Texas ranks second, with nearly 1 million square feet under construction in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Crypto miners continue to flock to the state. The Houston area continues to expand its industrial complex, including the announcement of the new Gulf Coast hydrogen hub. Oil and gas is connecting to the grid at every opportunity. We’re studying the scope of these challenges, but we believe it’s even bigger than current forecasts predict for electric growth.
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Power grid investments are enormous in scale, and they take years to complete. New power plants and power lines require regulatory certainty, feasibility assessments, environmental evaluations and community engagement. Each decision takes into account state and federal regulations regarding transmission siting, generation development, environmental permitting, water use, legislative direction and countless other factors, to determine the most efficient way to allow electric companies to invest and grow.
They also require billions of dollars in capital expense. Despite diligent planning and execution, delays stemming from regulatory complexities, supply chain and other unforeseen challenges are not uncommon.
Prioritizing reliability in a healthy competitive and regulated electric market is how we grow the grid in the most prudent way possible. Long-term affordability is ensured by preserving and enhancing the competitive market and through innovations in technology, demand response and energy efficiency, allowing consumers the ability to mitigate the cost of needed electric system investment with reduced electric usage.
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We’ve seen incredible consumer interest in renewable generation, particularly among large commercial and industrial consumers, and we know that dispatchable fossil fuel generation is essential and with it brings greater reliability. But in order to take advantage of every electron, we need more transmission and distribution lines to move electricity from the point of generation to the consumer.
Texas’ economic story is nothing short of remarkable, and our industry is the backbone of the state’s economy. Putting electric reliability first will allow Texas to continue to lead the nation in economic growth because there is no “Texas miracle” without electricity.
Mark Bell is the president of the Association of Electric Companies of Texas
We welcome your thoughts in a letter to the editor. See the guidelines and submit your letter here. If you have problems with the form, you can submit via email at letters@dallasnews.com

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