Texas Electric Utility Members Resign After Winter Storm

Five members of ERCOT, all of whom live out of state, will resign after the historic winter storm caused mass blackouts. ERCOT covers 75 percent of the state and manages 90 percent of the state’s electrical power load.

(TNS) — Almost a third of the board members who lead the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, manager of the state's power grid, will resign Wednesday, a week after a historic winter storm caused statewide blackouts, disrupted water supplies and left dozens of people dead.

Chair Sally Talberg, vice chair Peter Cramton, and board members Raymond Hepper, Terry Bulger and Vanessa Anesetti-Parra will step down at an emergency meeting, according to an ERCOT filing Tuesday with the Public Utility Commission, which oversees the grid operator.

Craig S. Ivey, who was set to fill the open 16th seat on the board is withdrawing his candidacy, according to a letter he sent Tuesday to the PUC. "We look forward to working with the Texas Legislature, and we thank the outgoing Board Members for their service," ERCOT said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.

Officials with ERCOT did not return phone calls and emails seeking comment. The PUC directed questions to ERCOT. Soon after the resignations were announced, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a statement critical of the nonprofit organization, which assured Texans before the storm that it could keep the power on despite concerns of massive demand for electricity.

"When Texans were in desperate need of electricity, ERCOT failed to do its job and Texans were left shivering in their homes without power," Abbott said. " ERCOT leadership made assurances that Texas' power infrastructure was prepared for the winter storm, but those assurances proved to be devastatingly false. The lack of preparedness and transparency at ERCOT is unacceptable, and I welcome these resignations."

The five departing board members all live out of state.

Talberg lives in Michigan and joined ERCOT's board in January 2020, becoming chair in early February. The former Michigan utility regulator also was a senior consultant at Public Sector Consultants and an advisor to the PUC. She has a master's degree in public affairs from the University of Texas, according to ERCOT's website.

Cramton, of Del Mar, Calif., joined ERCOT's board in October 2015. He is an economics professor at the University of Maryland and the University of Cologne. He studied electricity market design and serves as an economist and advisor to startups in finance, insurance and communications.

Bulger, who lives in the Chicago suburb of Wheaton, according to ERCOT, has more than 35 years of experience in banking. He chairs ERCOT's finance and audit committee.

Hepper, who lives in Lewiston, Maine, according to his LinkedIn profile, was the former general counsel for ISO New England, which operates the electric grid and wholesale markets across six states in the Northeast. He chairs ERCOT's human resources and governance committee.

Anesetti-Parra, who lives in Ontario, Canada, is vice president of regulatory and compliance for Canada-based Just Energy. She has more than 19 years of experience in retail energy, according to her LinkedIn profile.

In a joint resignation letter, Talberg, Cramton, Bulger and Hepper said they will begin the process of reviewing the events leading up to the power crisis.

"We want what is best for ERCOT and Texas," they wrote.

Crampton refused to comment when reached on Tuesday. Efforts to reach the other board members were unsuccessful.

At its current size, the board requires fifty percent of seated directors for a quorum. With the departure of the five seated members, the board will have 10 members. The board can continue to conduct business as long as there are three members, ERCOT said.

ERCOT's independent board members — those unaffiliated with various energy-related stakeholders — are nominated by a committee using an executive search firm and must have experience in one or more of the following: corporate leadership, regulations of utilities, risk management, information technology and in professional disciplines of finance, accounting, engineering or law. Residence in Texas is preferred, but not required, according to ERCOT's bylaws. Board members serve three-year terms and must be approved by the PUC, whose commissioners are appointed by the governor.

Texas created ERCOT in 1970 to ensure that the state's power utilities followed standards established by the North American Electric Reliability Council.

One of three power grids across the U.S. and Canada, ERCOT serves about 26 million customers over 75 percent of the state. Far Western Texas, parts of the Panhandle and a narrow swath along the border with Louisiana are on other grids. About 700 generation units, including wind turbines, natural gas- and coal-fired power plants, nuclear plants and solar installations provide the state's power.

ERCOT also acts as a financial middle-man for wholesale buyers and sellers in the system, collecting payments from power buyers and paying those that generate it.

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