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Texas Energy Grid: Deep Dive into ERCOT’s Governance Structure

Okay mi gente, this week we’ll explore the Texas electrical grid as-is. There has been a lot of scrutiny over the past week about how and why the Texas electrical grid works the way that it does, and who’s to blame when an outage occurs – so let’s take a deep dive and explore the system responsible for providing heat in the winter and cool in the summer.

You’ve likely heard of ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, and perhaps you’ve understood their role in the energy equation – here is a link to their home page for more information about how they serve Texas: here.

Their website outlines exactly how they’re set up, saying:ERCOT is a membership-based 501(c)(4) nonprofit corporation, governed by a board of directors and subject to oversight by the Public Utility Commission of Texas and the Texas Legislature. Its members include consumers, cooperatives, generators, power marketers, retail electric providers, investor-owned electric utilities, transmission and distribution providers and municipally owned electric utilities,” so we know by their own definition, that their Board of Directors, along with the Public Utilities Commission and the Texas Legislature are their “bosses” if you will.

So, who is on the Board, or within PUC, or within the Texas Legislature, and who makes up the members of the oversight committee that protect us from price surges and is in charge of equitably distributing energy to our great state? Again, you need only go to the ERCOT website to see for yourself – http://www.ercot.com/about/governance/directors. Please count the number of people on the board with oil & gas backgrounds, and then count the number of people on that board with renewable energy backgrounds. Find anything interesting? What is the average tenure of each ERCOT board member? How many board members are Latino, or Black, or female – how might this impact their visibility into these Texas communities?

Some of these board members have even worked for specific Retail energy providers in Texas, begging the questions: 1) who do they know, 2) who has their phone number from prior work experience, and 3) who are they most likely to help in a crisis? We often think that experience equates to know-how, but I think we need to ask whether or not there is enough diversity in our current power structure, pun intended, to allow for equal representation or new creative solutions to address an energy grid that will need to tackle climate change.

Now let’s take a look at those next couple of governing bodies: the PUC (Public Utilities Commission), http://www.puc.texas.gov/, and the Texas legislature, including the Texas House of Representatives https://house.texas.gov/members/ and the Texas Senate https://senate.texas.gov/members.php – and ask yourself the same questions as above. Do you know who represents your district? Did you know these are elected officials? If not that’s okay! However it may be time to start paying more attention, because it seems that while some communities kept the lights on or only had intermittent power failures last week, other communities were left without lights or heat in the most dire conditions all week long. These people are your advocates, did they advocate for you?

Without diversity in thought and representation, we will continue to attempt to tackle new climate change problems with existing, outdated solutions. Without green energy advocates or even just Texans within the ERCOT board of directors, or PUC, or even the Texas legislature charged with governing our electrical grid, we will not have a voice prepared to face the challenges our state faces today. It is time for a change to the way we govern the electrical Grid in Texas. Please note that this article does not mean to advocate for federal regulation, however some regulation at all that advocates for you and me, the end customer, would be ideal, and our current governance structure does not seem equipped to handle the problems we face today.

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