ERCOT is a membership-based 501(c)(4) nonprofit corporation, governed by a board of directors and subject to oversight by the Public Utility Commission of Texas and the Texas Legislature.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, known as ERCOT, manages about 90% of the state’s electricity.
ERCOT is currently governed by a 15-member board and five of its board members do not live in Texas. In fact, one of the 15 lives in Canada.
During a recent interview, ERCOT CEO Bill Magness was asked how can a board member serve Texas from another state, to which he replied, “Right now, the way that we can best serve Texans is to focus on getting generation and load and balance in working with our control room operators and other staff with the generators to get power back on for everyone. That’s the priority right now. I think if folks want to look at how ERCOT is run and who runs it, obviously it’s part of the investigation of what we’re doing in the future, all those things are on the table. But I think there was no impact of the chair of the ERCOT board of directors.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced he will be launching an investigation into the situation, and declared that he will propose a reform and submit it during the upcoming 2021 legislative session.
If the investigation is approved, it won’t be the first for the major monopoly.
How soon we forget that the same thing happened in February 2011 and the Independent Market Monitor, along with the Texas Reliability Entity, found no wrongdoings by ERCOT.
In 2011, Texans experienced a similar storm that froze natural gas wells that impacted surrounding coal plants and wind turbines that caused power outages across the state.
After the storm, politicians and regulators were warned that they needed to winterize the power infrastructure. Some efforts were made and, after the most recent winter storm in 2018, it seemed that the minor changes were enough.
Unfortunately, this storm proved more extreme than they planned and the minor changes did not hold up.
So the question now is, who is accountable?