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Abbott appointee resigns as chair of power grid regulator

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Abbott appointee resigns as chair of power grid regulator

Abbott appointee resigns as chair of power grid regulator” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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Peter Lake, chair of the Public Utility Commission — which regulates the state's power grid — resigned Friday, according to a statement from Gov. Greg Abbott's office.

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Lake was appointed by Abbott in April 2021 following the devastating near-statewide power outages that killed hundreds of people during Winter Storm Uri that February. In that time, he spearheaded a plan to help the state's grid withstand weather disasters.

But state lawmakers soured on the agency-led proposal, which was approved by the commission in January, at the start of this year's legislative session. Several lawmakers argued that it didn't go far enough to ensure new fossil fuel-fired power plants would be built.

Lake had advocated for more of a technology-neutral approach than some lawmakers.

The agency's plan, which Lake had a heavy hand in crafting, would create a new economic tool called performance credits. The credits would direct funds to companies that operate on-demand power sources, such as natural gas plants and batteries, paid for with an estimated 2% increase in customers' electricity bills. The idea: A financial incentive would cause companies to build more power plants or keep existing ones in service longer.

But ultimately, state lawmakers crafted and passed legislation with their own idea — which they said would ensure more gas plants are built. The legislation, which awaits the governor's approval, would create a fund designed to encourage the construction of gas-fueled power plants by providing low-cost loans and paying bonuses for connecting new gas-fueled plants to the state's primary grid. Another bill, also awaiting approval by Abbott, would change how companies that produce electricity can make money in Texas' electricity market.

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After decades of support for renewable energy, Republican lawmakers have turned against renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. During the 2021 and 2023 legislative sessions, Republican lawmakers pushed legislation to prop up fossil fuel-burning power plants.

Texas produces the most oil and gas of any state in the nation, but renewable energy has threatened the industry's domination in the electricity sector. Wind turbines and solar panels, which can produce electricity at a very low cost, provided more than a quarter of the state's electricity last year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Both of the bills passed this year, which were supported by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, would require dramatic changes to the commission's plan to harden the grid. PUC spokesperson Ellie Breed said it would be “premature” for the agency to comment on how the legislation could affect the plan before it takes effect.

In a statement provided through a PUC spokesperson, Lake expressed confidence in the state's electric grid — just a month after he'd warned the grid is at risk for outages this summer.

“When I arrived at the PUC in April 2021, our electric grid was in crisis,” Lake said in a statement. “Thanks to the hard work of the teams here and at ERCOT [the Electric Reliability Council of Texas], and my fellow commissioners, today, our grid is more reliable than ever.”

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Lake, in the statement, said the agency had “delivered” on its promise to Texans to keep the lights on.

“While there are challenges ahead, I know the PUC is well positioned to continue the incredible progress we've made.”

Lake took over the PUC chair position for DeAnn Walker, who resigned in March 2021 in the aftermath of the power crisis, following several calls for her resignation, including from Patrick.

Michael Webber, an energy resources professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said that Lake was an “excellent public servant” whom he found to be smart and open to new ideas.

“After two years of grueling work at the PUC to tackle some thorny grid issues, I'm not surprised he's ready for his next challenge,” Webber said.

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The governor will announce a new PUC chair in the coming days, and Lake will serve as a commissioner for the agency until July 1.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.


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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2023/06/02/texas-power-grid-public-utility-commission/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

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AFD responds to brush fire in Greenbelt area

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www.kxan.com – Nabil Remadna – 2024-03-02 20:00:50

SUMMARY: The Austin Fire Department responded to a fire in the Barton Creek Greenbelt, contained to a 40×40 foot area deep in the woods. The firefighters faced challenges due to dense brush, steep inclines, and limited water access. The fire was extinguished by 4:21 p.m. with the help of the Westlake Fire Department.

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City of Austin could see budget deficit, headed for ‘fiscal cliff’ with ARPA funding

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www.kxan.com – Grace Reader – 2024-03-02 18:05:12

SUMMARY: The City of Austin is facing a possible budget deficit for the 2024 fiscal year due to a decrease in sales tax revenue, with a current deficit of over $8 million. If the revenue remains flat, the deficit could reach $15 million by the end of the fiscal year. City officials are cautioning against assigning additional funds until the budget situation is clearer. Additionally, the American Rescue Plan Act funding, which provided $188 million to Austin, is running out and must be assigned and spent by the end of 2026. The city will need to find other sources to fund ongoing programs and services currently paid for with ARPA dollars.

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2 teenage boys shot at north Houston park on Casa Grande Drive, no suspect description available, HPD says

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abc13.com – KTRK – 2024-03-02 17:52:33

SUMMARY: Authorities in Houston are searching for the person responsible for shooting two teenage boys in north Houston. The incident occurred on Friday night, with the victims being a 16-year-old and an 18 or 19-year-old. The boys were hanging out in a park when they heard gunshots and were hit. The 16-year-old was shot in the upper body and is in bad condition but expected to be okay. The older teenager was shot in the leg and is also expected to recover. Police are investigating and looking for more footage or witnesses to help identify the shooter.

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The post 2 teenage boys shot at north Houston park on Casa Grande Drive, no suspect description available, HPD says appeared first on abc13.com

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