‘Change Is Required'; ERCOT Releases Report to Address Power Grid

ERCOT said comprehensive operations changes already underway

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The group that manages the Texas power grid released a comprehensive plan Tuesday to address the grid, including legislative changes, objectives outlined by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and other reforms.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas said the "Roadmap to Improving Grid Reliability" was delivered to Abbott, members of the Texas Legislature and the Public Utility Commission.

"Change is required for ERCOT to continue to reliably serve the millions of customers and businesses that depend on us," ERCOT Interim President and CEO Brad Jones said. "We have extensively reviewed our processes to better serve Texans and will continue to work very closely with the PUC to ensure we're aligned in these efforts."

The 60-item roadmap is available online and will be updated regularly through the end of the year, ERCOT said.

"ERCOT's Roadmap puts a clear focus on protecting customers while also ensuring that Texas maintains free-market incentives to bring new generation to the state," Public Utility Commission Chairman and ERCOT Board Member Peter Lake said. "Texans deserve a more reliable grid, and we're aggressively moving to make that a reality."

ERCOT said the roadmap includes both new and existing initiatives, including taking a more aggressive operating approach by bringing more generation online sooner if needed and purchasing more reserve power, especially on days when the weather forecast is uncertain. 

Other initiatives include requiring CEO certifications, meaning that after a rule change, all market participants who own or operate generation resources or power lines will be required to submit a letter signed by their CEO twice a year certifying their companies have completed their weatherization preparations to protect the electric grid for the summer and winter seasons, ERCOT said.

The roadmap also includes items like adding new requirements for generation owners, assessing on-site fuel supplies, performing unannounced testing of generation resources, and addressing transmission constraints in Rio Grande Valley.

In developing the roadmap, Jones and the ERCOT team worked with the PUC, customers, former regulators, retired industry executives, environmental advocates and market participants to ensure all areas for improvement were considered and included, ERCOT said.

An economics expert researching the February power outages said he was impressed with ERCOT's report.

"Whether it [the roadmap] covers everything the governor has expressed the desire to do, I’m not sure, but I think it’s a really good step forward," said Jay Zarnikau, a research fellow with the University of Texas Department of Economics. "It’s not going to necessarily address all the failures identified in our report, but it’s a good document."

Zarnikau is part of a team of faculty members from across the university digging into the blackouts.

The team's report, released Tuesday, used public and confidential data to research factors that led to the outages in February. The report states there was not one single factor, but it pointed out issues such as the difficulty in forecasting the severity of the storm.

"The various computer models, weather models that were being used by the meteorologists, meteorology team at ERCOT, they were just not agreeing with each other until basically the last minute," said Josh Rhodes, a research associate with the university's department of mechanical engineering. "It just didn’t seem like they really had a handle on how bad the storm was going to be until right before the event happened."

While the report did not include recommended policies or solutions, researchers said the goal was to offer an unbiased assessment of the data and events of the blackout.

It may inform subsequent assessments and the public policy debate about how to best design and operate the ERCOT grid, the university said.

An ERCOT spokesperson referred NBC 5 to the Public Utility Commission of Texas, which commissioned the report. A spokesperson said Tuesday their team was reviewing the findings.

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