After millions of Texans were left without power last week in subfreezing temperatures, attention has been focused on the council that oversees the state’s electrical grid—the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.
On Tuesday, four out-of-state members of ERCOT’s board—including the chair and vice chair—announced their resignations. Gov. Greg Abbott welcomed the resignations, saying, “ERCOT leadership made assurances that Texas’ power infrastructure was prepared for the winter storm, but those assurances proved to be devastatingly false.”
But what is ERCOT, and who is responsible for overseeing them?
Set up as a “membership-based 501(c)(4) nonprofit corporation,” ERCOT’s members consist of “consumers, cooperatives, generators, power marketers, retail electric providers, investor-owned electric utilities, transmission and distribution providers, and municipally owned electric utilities.”
Their job? To manage the flow of electric power to more than 26 million Texas customers, as nearly 90 percent of the state is within ERCOT’s grid.
The role of oversight of the council comes from two entities—the Texas Legislature and the Public Utility Commission. The Legislature is scheduled to hold hearings later this week to investigate ERCOT and what factors led to the outages last week.
Meanwhile, the Public Utility Commission consists of three members, all appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott and confirmed by the Texas Senate.
And while alarms were sounded over non-Texas residents sitting on ERCOT’s board, new board members must be approved by Abbott’s appointees to the PUC after being initially nominated by current members.
In other words, as Abbott and state lawmakers point fingers at ERCOT for mismanagement, they share responsibility for failing to oversee the council before last week’s failures.
Now Abbott has directed lawmakers to “reform” the council, with Abbott adding ERCOT reform as an emergency priority last week and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick listing it among his 31 legislative priorities released on Tuesday.
What exactly their proposed reforms will look like, however, has yet to be revealed.