|I Reckon We best have our own Power Grid Y'all.|
By Slate.com's Brendan I. Koehner
Blackout postmortems have noted that in the continental United States, the electricity system consists of just three regions, the Eastern Interconnection, the Western Interconnection, and the Texas Interconnection. Why does the Lone Star State have its own power grid?
Partly because of a historical desire for self-sufficiency and partly because of that famous "Don't Mess With Texas!" attitude. The majority of the state's residents live within the region regulated by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, an "island" that generates and supplies all its own electricity—unlike, say, New York City or Detroit, whose residents found out the hard way that lots of their power comes from Canada. (A small sliver of Western Texas gets its juice from the Western Interconnection, while a few customers in the north and the east are hooked into the Eastern Interconnection. Still, ERCOT handles 85 percent of the state's electricity needs.)
The local utilities that comprise ERCOT have pledged not to sell their power to interstate customers. As a result, the interconnection is exempt from most regulation by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Beltway agency that governs the transmission of electricity from state to state—say, by mandating transmission standards, or requiring that prices be listed in public forums. ERCOT's resistance to federal regulation plays well in President Bush's native land, where meddling from Washington, D.C., is generally abhorred.