AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick gathered a bipartisan group of state senators on Thursday to announce a sweeping package of bills he argued will bolster the reliability of the power grid and lower energy costs, more than two years after the the grid nearly collapsed during the 2021 Feburary winter storm.

Senator Charles Schwertner, chairman of the Business and Commerce committee, first introduced a new “Texas Energy Insurance Program” that Senate Bill 6 would create. He said this will add 10,000 megawatts of power to Texas’ energy supply.

“Texas needs its own backup generation when weather is bad,” he said. “This proposal puts new steel in the ground, ensures more electrons are flowing in our power lines.”

Senate Bill 6 also establishes a “state-backed, low-cost loan program” which Schwertner compared to SWIFT, or the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas. That program provides financial assistance to local water projects.

“This is not building a capacity market. It is an insurance product,” Schwertner said. “The energy only market has been very successful here in Texas at keeping costs down. But it is again important to have a backup system so that Texans can be reassured that we have the power necessary in times of crisis.”

Senate Bill 7 is also in Patrick’s top 10 priorities. This bill aims to incentivize the creation of new dispatchable energy in a way Patrick argued would “level the playing field” between renewable and non-renewable energy.

The senators stressed the need for Texas to have more dispatchable energy — power that is easily distributed, usually come from sources like natural gas and power plants.

“Whether the wind’s blowing or the sun is shining or whatever else may be happening, it’s ready to go electricity,” said Sen. Phil King, R-Weatherford.

The senators’ bill package includes seven other bills: SB 1287, SB 2010, SB 2011, SB 2012, SB 2013, SB 2014 and SB 2015.

The Sierra Club was quick to criticize the plan as a costly favor to fossil fuel interest groups.

“This could be very expensive for consumers,” Sierra Club’s Texas conservation director Cyrus Reed said. “I think who it benefits most is existing generators that own fossil fuel plants. They would be paid more in the market.”

Reed said he is not opposed to every detail that the senators are proposing, but thinks there are better approaches to ensuring reliability — like finding ways to decrease consumers’ demand.

“If we were to increase the amount that utilities have to spend on energy efficiency, reducing people’s demand, we could reduce that red line that’s going up and up,” he said.

Patrick said the Senate is collaborating with the House on the legislation, and he stressed the importance of coming to agreement on these reforms this session.

“The most important issue that I have talked about coming into this session is to address the issues with our power grid,” he said. “It will take several years…that’s why we have to start now, we can’t wait another session to do that.”

The Public Utility Commission of Texas also spent months developing its own plan for the grid, as required by legislation passed during the 2021 session. Chairman Peter Lake sent Nexstar a statement in response to senator’s plans.

“We appreciate Lt. Governor Patrick’s and Chairman Schwertner’s leadership on these issues critical to Texas. We are all working together toward the same goal, reliable and affordable energy for Texans. They made clear today the PCM, which we unanimously adopted earlier this year, is an important part of the solution that will achieve this for the Texas grid,” he said. “We look forward to continuing this work with legislators to ensure reliability, affordability, and accountability in the Texas energy market today and for generations of Texans to come.”