On Tuesday, the Austin American-Statesman reported that one-third of the leaders of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the governing body that oversees Texas' independent power grid, do not actually live in Texas — including the chair and vice chair.
"Sally Talberg, chairwoman of ERCOT's board of directors, is a former state utility regulator who lives in Michigan, according to her biography on ERCOT's website," reported Madlin Mekelburg. "Vice Chairman Peter Cramton is a professor of economics at the University of Cologne in Germany and at the University of Maryland. His Linkedin profile lists his location as Del Mar, Calif."
Three other members of the 15-seat board also live out of state and off the grid they are operating: "Vanessa Anesetti-Parra, a board member, serves as vice president of regulatory and compliance at Just Energy and lists her location on Linkedin as Toronto. Board member Terry Bulger spent his career as a banking professional in the United States, Canada and in Europe. His biography on the ERCOT website states that he is a resident of Wheaton, IL, a Chicago suburb. Raymond Hepper, another board member, retired in 2018 from ISO New England, which operates the electric system and wholesale markets for the six states that make up the area. His Linkedin profile lists his residency as Auburn, Maine."
ERCOT's grid has been crippled by a freak winter blizzard that has buried much of the state under snow and ice, with officials unable to promise when power will be back on.
The report sparked immediate bipartisan outrage from Texas state legislators, with Houston Democratic Rep. Carol Alvarado calling it "unacceptable," and Llano Republican Rep. Jeff Leach pledging to file a bill requiring ERCOT officials reside in-state. Gov. Greg Abbott has similarly vowed to make ERCOT reform an immediate legislative priority.
Texas is the only state in the U.S. that operates its own entirely self-contained power grid. This arrangement dates back to the 1930s, and allows the Lone Star State to skirt some federal energy regulations, since a grid that doesn't cross state lines does not fall under "interstate commerce" subject to constitutional oversight by Congress.
Ironically, after some Texas politicians mocked heat-related rolling blackouts in California last year as a consequence of green energy overreliance, most of the power loss in Texas is due to failures at coal, gas, and nuclear facilities.