Three years after a brutal winter freeze that crippled the power grid in Texas, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is working to strengthen the state’s power delivery system. Among other things, it is investing in a major transmission project that will connect to outside sources.
On Jan. 15, ERCOT issued a call for customers to conserve electricity as the state braced for a cold winter chill. Customers responded, power supplies were sufficient and ERCOT ended its call for conservation a few days later.
Although the grid held up, the episode offered a reminder that Texas faces ongoing challenges with reliability, delivery and supplies after the winter weather event that left millions without power and more than 240 people dead in February 2021.
CBS News Texas reports one solution may be the Southern Spirit Transmission project. The 320-mile, 3,000-megawatt high-voltage direct current transmission line will begin in Louisiana at the Texas border and extend into Mississippi. It will connect to Texas by way of the Rusk to Panola Transmission Project in partnership with Garland Power & Light.
Notably, the project will connect ERCOT to Southeastern transmission grids outside the state. It will allow providers to send renewable power generated from solar and wind within Texas to customers serviced by grids in neighboring states. It will also allow Texas to import power from those same states in times of extreme weather events, like the one that occurred in 2021.
The project raises some eyebrows, because Texas has long prided itself on its energy independence, which has allowed it to avoid federal oversight. Many critics have asserted that it was this independence that contributed to the crisis three years ago.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Public Utility Commission of Texas have approved the Southern Spirit project. Right-of-way applications are still pending before the public service commissions of Louisiana and Mississippi. Texas is maintaining its independence from federal oversight because the project will employ a DC connection.
Southern Spirit is being developed by Pattern Energy. Construction is expected to begin in 2026, and the project is projected to be fully operational in 2029.