Pictured – Two of the ERCOT Board members who don’t even live in Texas. Sally Talcot lives in Michigan and Peter Cramton lives in California!
Many, probably most, Texans hadn’t heard of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas until this week. Then a historic winter storm froze up the place and “electric reliability” turned into an unfunny joke for far too many. Their electricity was reliably unavailable.
Well, except in certain well-lit urban downtowns. If you live outside of those, as most Texans do, you were forced to play a grim version of Russian Roulette with your power and water supply — if you could get either. Your water pipes may have frozen and burst, rendering your frigid home uninhabitable. I have friends who are dealing with this and will be dealing with it for a long time after the storm.
Power went out for millions of Texans several days ago and is only now being restored piecemeal. Freezing temperatures won’t even leave central Texas until Friday. Much of the state north of that may stay cold for days yet.
Texans are getting to know the 50-year-old council and are not liking what they’re learning. For one thing, about a third of its members don’t even live in Texas.
A third of the board of directors that operate the state’s electrical grid do not appear to live in Texas, and their performance in wake of widespread outages has led to a Dallas-area lawmaker’s call for change.
Records show the two top office holders of the 15-member board of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), live out-of-state. Three other ERCOT board members also appear to live thousands of miles from Texas.
The thought of some Californian voting on our energy market doesn’t sit well.
For another, it turns out that the board members nominate each other to it.
How that hasn’t come up as a glaring conflict of interest before now is a head-scratcher. Pals nominating pals who nominate other pals to this board in Texas? And you don’t even have to live there?
Well, now that the glare has turned on ERCOT, it has removed the board members’ names from its website. They’re gone. They were all there earlier in the week.
And now its board has disappeared itself precisely when Gov. Abbott and everyone else in the state is demanding transparency. We’re beyond “this is not a good look” territory, well beyond. The legislature is angry. Hearings will commence next week.
Among the conversations to be had are how much the state should depend on wind power, which did collapse as demand surged but has bounced back, and if we’re going to depend on wind then why don’t we winterize the windmills in West Texas? It gets cold out there, not usually this cold, but cold enough to consider winterizing. That will cost money, but should be discussed.
Another will be, is it possible to keep a few coal plants in working order just in case another winter like this strikes? There will be loads of economic questions attached to that one. Coal plants were the casualties of the billion-dollar subsidies that developed wind and solar power in Texas. But coal is more reliable than just about anything else when you need it most. It’s also cheap and it’s available in parts of Texas.
Another will be, should Texas fully embrace nuclear? Both it and coal have provided a steady power baseline throughout the storms, though one reactor did have to get taken offline when its water cooling system froze up. That was the one outside Houston, by the way, which is normally in the 60s to 70s this time of year. That part of the state gets hurricanes but it doesn’t usually get ice and snowstorms.