Power outage

A CVS Pharmacy in South Austin is lit only by the lights of a parked car. Fifteen directors serve on the ERCOT board, including the four unaffiliated directors, whose resignations will be effective at the end of the meeting Wednesday. 

Four board members of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the entity that manages and operates the electricity grid that covers much of Texas, will resign on Wednesday, according to a notice to the Public Utility Commission.

All four of the members who are resigning live out of state.

Sally Talberg, board chair; Peter Cramton, vice chair; Terry Bulger, finance and audit chair; and Raymond Hepper, human resources and governance committee chair, will resign at the end of the ERCOT board meeting Wednesday morning, according to the notice.

ERCOT board members had come under fire last week when it was reported that four of the board members did not reside in the state. ERCOT officials, during a press conference last week, said it had removed personal information about the directors from its website because the board members were experiencing harassment.

The board has also been criticized for its handling of last week's mass power outage during a winter storm that has claimed the lives of dozens of Texans. More than 4.5 million customers were without power at one point last week.

The notice comes after the filing of State Senate Bill 743, filed by State Sen. Drew Springer, R-Muenster, Tuesday, which would require board members to be Texas residents.

"When millions of Texans lost power last week, all eyes were on ERCOT to get answers and have our lights and heat turned back on," Springer said. "When I learned that five out of the 15 board members did not live in Texas and were not experiencing the freezing conditions like the rest of us, my constituents and fellow Texans demanded that change.

"It is unacceptable that Texans went days without heat for their homes and no running water due to the mismanagement at ERCOT."

State lawmakers have said said the reforming of ERCOT is one of their top priorities, with Gov. Greg Abbott declaring it an emergency item during the current legislative session.

Talberg, a former state utility regulator who served on the Michigan Public Utility Commission from 2013 to 2020, lives in Michigan. Talberg has sat on various state, regional and national boards and committees involving electricity, natural gas, oil, infrastructure and telecommunications issues. Cramton, a professor of economics at the University of Cologne and the University of Maryland, lives in Germany. Cramton has focused his research on electricity and financial markets. He has advised numerous governments and has been on the ERCOT board since 2015.

Bulger worked in the banking sector for 35 years, including various positions with ABN AMRO Bank in Canada, Europe and the U.S., and lives in Wheaton, Illinois. Hepper, a former litigator for the U.S. Department of Justice, retired in 2018 from working for the grid operator that manages the six-state New England electric system and wholesale markets.

Fifteen directors serve on the ERCOT board, including the four unaffiliated directors, whose resignations will be effective at the end of the meeting Wednesday. The vacancies will not immediately be filled.

In order for ERCOT to maintain its certification as an independent organization, the board, which should consist of 16 members, must include five who are completely unaffiliated with “any market segment.” One of those five unaffiliated positions was unfilled — Craig Ivey, who was slated to fill the vacant position, has withdrawn his application, according to the notice.

“The board chairman, board vice chairman and both committee chairman leadership roles will be vacant,” according to the notice submitted by attorneys representing ERCOT.

An ERCOT spokesperson nor lawyer was not immediately available for comment.

"Four ERCOT board members who live outside of Texas resign in the aftermath of the power outage, winter storm" was first published at https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/23/ercot-members-resign-texas/ by The Texas Tribune. The Texas Tribune is proud to celebrate 10 years of exceptional journalism for an exceptional state.

Sally Sexton contributed to this report.

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