EnergyIssuesA Third of the ERCOT Board Resides Outside of Texas

The grid regulator announced Friday that conditions were stable and concerted energy conservation could cease.
February 19, 2021
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The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is a non-profit, quasi-public entity that oversees the electricity grid that powers most of the state.

Since prolonged blackouts became widespread starting early Monday morning, ERCOT has been the scapegoat for politicians and the public writ large. The organization is run by a board of directors, one-third of which doesn’t live in the state which they oversee.

Among those who do not live in Texas are Chair Sally Talberg and Vice-Chair Peter Cramton who live in Michigan and Maryland, respectively.

Talberg earned a master’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin but eventually moved back to Michigan where she served on the Michigan Public Service Commission, advising the state on electricity and other energy-related issues.

Cramton is an economics professor at the University of Cologne and the University of Maryland.

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Three other board members — Vanessa Anesetti-Parra, Terry Bulger, and Raymond Hepper — each live outside of Texas.

Anesetti-Parra lives in Toronto, Canada.

Shortly after ERCOT found itself in the national spotlight, their website’s board of director’s page was stripped of any personal details including names and positions.

ERCOT later stated this was done after some members received threats. The page has since been restored.

There is nothing outlawing such appointments of out-of-state board members.

ERCOT board members are appointed by the Public Utility Commission (PUC), which oversees the grid regulator. PUC commissioners are appointed by the governor, and all three current commissioners were appointed by Governor Greg Abbott.

Friday morning, ERCOT announced the removal of the emergency conditions. Dan Woodfin, senior director of system operations, said in the release, “There is enough generation on the electric system to allow us to begin to return to more normal operating conditions.”

The grid’s electricity capacity and demand margins are mostly back to pre-blackout levels, although 34,000 megawatts (MW) of typical generation remains unavailable — 60 percent of which is thermal generation while 40 percent is renewables.

One MW can power between 500 and 650 homes at once.

In a matter of hours after ERCOT’s announcement, wholesale electricity prices plummeted from their position near the $9,000 MW cap where they had stayed for multiple days down to pre-blackout levels.

Fewer than 200,000 customers remain without power, down significantly from the millions who were left in the dark through much of the week. ERCOT says those remaining without power are not so due to the grid’s inability to support the demand, but rather because of infrastructural problems such as downed power lines or the need to manually reconnect their areas to the main grid.

ERCOT announced Friday, “[O]perations have returned to normal, and we are no longer asking for energy conservation.”

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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.