Four unaffiliated and out-of-state directors on the board of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) will resign, following widespread outages caused by a severe winter storm that swept over the Central United States. The storm brought snow, ice, and extreme cold temperatures from the Canadian border as far south as Texas, impacting power generation, including natural gas and wind facilities.
ERCOT, an independent system operator that manages the flow of electric power to more than 26 million Texas customers and represents about 90% of the state’s electric load, came under fire with state lawmakers and other officials criticizing its handling of the long-lasting outages.
The resignees are Sally Talberg, board chairman; Peter Cramton, board vice chairman; Terry Bulger, Finance and Audit Committee chairman; and Raymond Hepper, Human Resources and Governance Committee chairman. Their resignation will be effective upon the adjournment of the Feb. 24, 2021, ERCOT Urgent Board Meeting by Teleconference. Additionally, Craig S. Ivey, whose application intended to fill the sole prior unaffiliated director vacancy on the board, has withdrawn as an unaffiliated director candidate.
With the resignations of the four unaffiliated directors, no unaffiliated directors will be serving on the ERCOT board. The board chairman, board vice chairman, and both committee chairman leadership roles will be vacant. Also, with the withdrawal of the unaffiliated director candidate, there are no unaffiliated director candidates immediately available who have been selected through the nomination process and vetted to meet the eligibility criteria.
In a joint resignation letter, the resignees wrote, “Our hearts go out to all Texans who have had to go without electricity, heat, and water during frigid temperatures and continue to face the tragic consequences of this emergency.
“We have noted recent concerns about out-of-state board leadership at ERCOT. To allow state leaders a free hand with future direction and to eliminate distractions, we are resigning from the board effective after our urgent board teleconference meeting adjourns on Feb. 24, 2021.
“Before we step aside, we are beginning the process of reviewing this extreme cold weather event and the resulting power crisis. With the right follow-through, Texas can lead the nation in investing in infrastructure and emergency preparedness to withstand the effects of severe weather events — whether in the form of flooding, drought, extreme temperatures, or hurricanes.”
The recent snow storm critically affected the Texas power grid, causing record winter power demand and leaving millions of Texans without power. As of Feb. 15, ERCOT reported that almost 10,000 MW of generation had been lost because of sub-freezing conditions. Increased demand from the extreme cold weather, limited gas supplies, and frozen equipment at thermal plants were the primary causes of rolling blackouts triggered across the ERCOT region.
In Texas, most electric companies are transmission and distribution (T&D) companies and do not generate power, so the shortage of power generation capacity is not something companies can directly address, according to Edison Electric Institute. They must follow directives from ERCOT and other grid operators.
Following the storm, Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared the reform of ERCOT an emergency item this legislative session. He called on the legislature to investigate ERCOT and ensure Texans never again experience power outages on the scale they have seen over the past several days.
“ERCOT has been anything but reliable over the past 48 hours,” said Abbott on Feb. 16. “Far too many Texans are without power and heat for their homes as our state faces freezing temperatures and severe winter weather. This is unacceptable. Reviewing the preparations and decisions by ERCOT is an emergency item so we can get a full picture of what caused this problem and find long-term solutions. I thank my partners in the House and Senate for acting quickly on this challenge, and I will work with them to enhance Texas’ electric grid and ensure that our state never experiences power outages like this again.”