(Bloomberg) -- The looming threat of more blackouts is spurring Texas Republicans to push through a plan that would compel residents and businesses to fund a fleet of new natural gas-fired power plants.
The Senate voted 22 to 9 on Wednesday to build up to 10 gigawatts to provide backup generation that is weatherized and has on-site fuel equivalent to 10 nuclear reactors. It would create an energy insurance fund using taxpayer money and builders of the facilities would be assured returns of up to 10%.
Texas Republicans are pursuing power-system reforms in an effort to avoid repeating the deadly week-long grid collapse of February 2021 during a historic freeze. The plan endorsed by the Senate would be the first time that the state directly taps consumers to pay for power generation since its electricity market was deregulated more than two decades ago.
“It really is a signal that Texas politicians no longer have faith that competitive markets can adequately and economically satisfy the electricity needs of Texas citizens,” said Beth Garza, a consultant for think tank R Street Institute.
Senators pushed through additional bills to reform the power market through means that would benefit fossil-fuel burning generators. They include establishing payouts for power plants that prove to be online certain hours each year, furthering a controversial $6 billion plan, and capping the annual net increase cost to consumers to $500 million. Lawmakers also backed a plan to label gas-fired electricity as “green” and to launch new energy credits for plants that are seen as ensuring grid stability.
The bills still need the approval of the State House and the signature of Republican Governor Greg Abbott to become law.
--With assistance from Shelly Hagan and Joe Carroll.
(Updates with additional power bills passed in the final paragraph.)
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