A Brief History of Texas Electricity

texas electricity power plant

Texas electricity first came in the early 1880s, 15 years or so after the end of the Civil War. The first power plant was built in Galveston. A handful of other areas followed suit over the next 20 years. These plants ran on steam or the rushing water of dams.

By the 1890s, power was mostly being made and used in cities. Houston, San Antonio, El Paso, Dallas/Fort Worth and Austin would have been aglow at night from electric lights in homes. Growth in rural areas was slow and wouldn’t take off until the 1930s. This is when federal loans to such places became available.

Thanks to a deal put in place by then-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, farmers began forming rural electric cooperatives across the nation in 1936. By 1945, more than a million Texas residents had power in their homes.

At about this same time, several utilities came together to form the Texas Interconnected System (TIS). This group was formed to aid in the war effort during World War II. Under TIS, excess power was sent to companies that made such things as ammunition and aircraft parts. But that wasn’t the only good thing to come from it.

The utility companies saw the efficiency in being linked in such a way. In 1970, TIS representatives created the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). This entity would later absorb TIS and other utilities and grow to form the Texas electricity grid.

In the early 1990s, Texas voted to restructure the wholesale electricity market. And in 1999, the retail market was changed, as well, creating energy choice. For the first time, Texas residents had a say in who provided their electricity.

Today, electricity use in Texas is at an all-time high. And production has moved beyond steam and rushing water. Power is delivered to an estimated 27 million people each day. It’s made by such things as natural gas, coal, oil, nuclear power, wind and solar. And trends have electricity production moving toward ever more sustainable methods.

  • GenePreston

    I began working for Austin Energy in 1970. I recall the Texas Interconnected System existed many years before becoming ERCOT. It must have been well after 1970. I see that control was not passed to ERCOT until 1981. I remember in a TIS engineering meeting Elof Soderberg GM of LCRA telling the members that TIS was now to be called the Present Interconnected Synchronous System because for a while Texas Utilities, Austin, San Antonio, and Houston operated separated from West Texas Utilities and Central Power and Light because WTU had closed a switch across state lines in the middle of the night putting ERCOT under FERC jurisdiction. The AC tie was opened later and two DC ties were built to carry power across the state line, thus not synchronized. I participated in a study in 1999 connecting AC ties between ERCOT and the eastern grid and we determined that if there were to be AC ties there would have to be at least six 345 kV lines all built at the same time to make the interconnection be stable. Gene Preston http://egpreston.com