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TEC Reviews 86th Legislative Session

July 1, 2019

During the 86th legislative session, which adjourned May 27, TEC advocated for electric cooperative interests.

Because of that work, Senate Bill 14, signed by the governor June 7 and effective immediately, creates an easier path for electric co-ops to provide broadband internet service.

Previously, Texas law required co-ops to sign new right-of-way agreements with landowners to add fiber to existing utility infrastructure. The new legislation allows co-ops to use existing easements to provide broadband, removing a barrier to deployment.

"Broadband is really lagging across rural areas," said Darren Schauer, general manager/CEO of Guadalupe Valley EC, who testified in favor of the bill in front of a Senate committee. GVEC provides broadband fiber-optic internet service to more than 9,000 homes and businesses. "It is only going to grow in the future as more and more people become dependent on high-speed internet."

Other bills of interest that made it to the governor's desk include:

SB 1938: Establishes a statewide policy for transmission expansion based on endpoint ownership and prohibits the entry of new transmission providers within Texas.

HB 1960: Establishes the governor's Broadband Development Council, which will research progress of broadband development in unserved areas, identify barriers to deployment and study technology-neutral solutions.

HB 2422: Requires the Texas Department of Transportation to provide notice on its website of ongoing and planned highway construction projects for joint trenching opportunities for broadband providers in the state's rights-of-way.

HB 4150: Supports an improved framework for utility safety and compliance reporting.

HB 61: Extends the move over/slow down law to electric co-op service vehicles with the appropriate lighting.

SB 64: Requires the Public Utility Commission of Texas to establish a program to monitor cybersecurity efforts among electric utilities, including co-ops. The PUCT will offer best practices, facilitate information sharing and make recommendations for cybersecurity controls.

SB 475: Establishes the Texas Electric Grid Security Council, an advisory body to facilitate the creation, aggregation, coordination and dissemination of best security practices for the electric industry. The council will focus on physical and cyber grid vulnerabilities and provide recommendations to lawmakers.

SB 936: Develops a framework for collaboration between the PUCT, electric utilities and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas regarding efforts to secure critical electric infrastructure from cyber vulnerabilities by providing for a state cybersecurity monitor. Utilities not in ERCOT may opt in to the program but are otherwise excluded.

HB 2263: Abolishes the General Land Office's state power program.

SB 1012: Clarifies that co-ops can own and operate electric energy storage facilities without registering as power generation companies.

SB 1497: Subjects electricity brokers to a registration requirement and regulation by the PUCT.

HB 2845: Requires wind power facility agreements to include specified provisions on wind facility removal and establishes basic financial obligations regarding such an agreement.