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Texas power grid 'stronger and more reliable than ever,' ERCOT says. Is it ready for winter?

Peter Lake, chairman of the Public Utility Commission (PUC), said the "lights will stay on" in Texas this winter.

DALLAS — State energy officials on Wednesday said the Texas power grid is as strong as it's ever been and ready for winter weather, as nearly all of the state's electricity generators have been winterized over the last two months.

The winterization is aimed at preventing what happened in February, when freezing temperatures drove the grid to the brink of failure and knocked out power for millions of Texans.

Peter Lake, chairman of the Public Utility Commission (PUC), called the grid "stronger and more reliable than ever" and that the "lights will stay on" for Texans.

"No other power grid has made as remarkable changes in such an incredible short amount of time," Lake said at a meeting of the commission and officials from the Energy Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).

Lake and the ERCOT CEO Brad Jones touted Texas' generator and natural gas supply and its winterization efforts over the last two months, including the implementation of strict penalties for power generation resources that don't comply with the new rules.

Jones said the state has 855 generators, and that 97% of those have submitted winter readiness confirmation on time. Jones said ERCOT is working with PUC on addressing the remaining generators who haven't submitted winter readiness details.

"We've got more generators in ERCOT than we ever have before," Lake said.

The PUC on Wednesday filed violations against eight generation companies that did not file winter weather readiness reports by Dec. 1. But those companies account for 13 generation resources out of about 850 across the state, providing less than 1% of the state's megawatt total.

The eight companies the PUC found in violation were Cooke Solar, Bull Creek Wind, Cotton Plains Wind, Lamesa Solar, Midway Solar, OCI Alamo, Shell Oil Company and Texas Big Spring LP.

The PUC's proposed fines totaled $7.5 million.

This year is the first time Texas has required power plants to be winterized. The rule went into effect this fall, and companies had until Dec. 1 confirm they were ready for winter. 

ERCOT will now begin the process of inspecting those plants to confirm they have been properly winterized, which includes placing thermal blankets on certain equipment and making efforts to prevent pipes from freezing during cold weather.

ERCOT plans to finish those inspections by Dec. 29.

"At both ERCOT and PUC, we are operating at lightning speed to improve operations and to enhance our grid and ensure reliability for this winter," Lake said. "For the first time ever we have gotten improved checks and balances to ensure a higher level of reliability than we've ever had." 

The four-member PUC adopted the winterization rule in October in response to February's winter storm, which left millions of Texans without power during some of the state's coldest sustained temperatures in years.

The winterization rule was something federal regulators told Texas to implement 10 years ago, after a winter storm in 2011 caused massive power outages. 

Watch ERCOT's full update from Wednesday:

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