AUSTIN (Nexstar) — On Feb. 15, 2021, the Texas power grid was four minutes and 37 seconds away from completely collapsing, an event that would have triggered a “black start.” It would have taken months to mend Texas’ electric infrastructure, and left millions without power for just as long.

The February 2021 freeze still left millions of Texans without power and heat for days, taking the lives of hundreds. One year later, Texas democrats are still calling for more action.

“Texans died because of a failure in government,” State Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, said from the Capitol Tuesday.

She, alongside other House democrats, held an all-day summit on the anniversary of the storm, hearing from victims, medical experts and energy analysts.

Public Utility Commission Chairman Peter Lake sat down with Nexstar’s Maggie Glynn to talk about grid changes since he took over in April of last year.

Lake said, approaching the anniversary, the grid is more reliable than ever.

“We feel absolutely confident that this grid – it’s more reliable – can absolutely handle any extreme weather event that Mother Nature throws at us,” Lake said.

Lake pointed to legislation passed by Texas lawmakers last year that directed the PUC and ERCOT to make swift changes.

“They directed the Public Utility Commission and ERCOT to implement these reforms and implement them quickly. And we saw the result of that and how well the grid performed last week during the extreme weather event,” Lake said.

While the cold snap earlier this month did not compare to the conditions Texas experienced in February 2021, Lake pointed to the untapped supply of power available during this year’s event.

“We had enough excess power during the peak demand, during that period, to cover the estimated demand from ‘Winter Storm Uri’ and then some,” Lake explained.

The PUC required power generators to weatherize by Dec. 1, 2021.

“ERCOT, whose responsibility is to inspect each of these facilities, we did over 300 facilities, and 99% of them came out just like we’d want them to,” ERCOT interim CEO Brad Jones told Nexstar this week.

“It’s large thermal blankets, it’s structures built around specific facilities, so that wind chill doesn’t impact, to block the wind. It is heat tracing, which is simply like a resistance heating element in your home, that will heat up a pipe to keep it warm,” Jones said.

Those 324 facilities account for 85% of the state’s total power generation.

These weatherization requirements were set based on previous cold weather events. The next phase of weatherization requires ERCOT to account for climate change.

“That’s what that state climatologist is doing for us, helping us to see what those potentials are for our future,” Jones explained.

The fuel that keeps these generators going, though, natural gas suppliers, have not been required to weatherize ahead of this winter. The Texas Railroad Commission is expected to officially roll those requirements out later this year, ahead of next winter.

“I wish that they had moved as quickly as the Public Utility Commission in getting something ahead of this winter. But they they weren’t able to do that,” Jones said.

“Independent of their rules, though, I know that many of their suppliers have put weatherization on their facilities since this last year. And the railroad commission also required all of the major natural gas producers to sign up for uninterruptible electric service, I also believe that as a good thing, we want them to go that extra step,” Jones added.

Jones said ERCOT is also working toward establishing a “gas desk.” Currently, gas suppliers do not report to the state when they run into issues that impact their ability to supply generators.

“We have maybe 15% of the information that we need on our gas system. If we know more about the gas system, know what, what operational issues, perhaps there’s a compressor that’s not working, or maybe there’s some plan maintenance on the facility, if we have that information that makes our entire system more reliable,” Jones continued.

Jones said that would allow ERCOT to work in advance and avoid any generators from needing to drop offline.

“To make sure that the companies would shift their planned maintenance, outage opportunities, shifting off of areas where it may create reliability risk for the rest of the grid,” Jones said.

In addition to physical changes, legislation passed last year also aims to improve inter-agency communication and cooperation.

“We saw them in action in the February [2022] winter weather event, where for the first time ever, the PUC, ERCOT, Railroad Commission, TxDOT and TCEQ are all operating shoulder by shoulder,” Lake said.

The Texas Energy Reliability Council was also formed in the aftermath.

“For the first time, both the oil and gas industry regulator, the power generator, and companies from each of those respective industries are gathering together on a regular basis to communicate directly in advance of any trouble,” Lake explained.

Those conversations, so far, have been behind closed doors.

“Those conversations are identifying problems that might arise issues that people see coming up on the horizon. And so those private companies, and those corporations can talk to each other before there’s a problem,” Lake explained.

This is just the first round of reforms put in place by the PUC.

“We’ve identified the reforms. We’ve stabilized the grid operationally. So we know the reforms that we’re going to put in place. And so now we’re in the blocking and tackling mode, implementing those reforms,” Lake said.

The commission is also weighing demand-side response for future load shed events as well.

“Demand response is an important part of the equation, we implemented a new reform for our industrial demand response program that in the past had been buried away behind emergency conditions and could only be used on the brink of rolling blackouts,” Lake said.