The already volatile world of Texas energy management got another shake-up this week as two top regulators announced their resignation.
The most troubling departure is that of Carrie Bevins. She was appointed independent market monitor in April 2020. The position is supposed to give a point of view outside of the traditional energy market power structures like ERCOT and PUC.
Following the disaster that was Winter Storm Uri in 2021, Bivens began criticizing the state’s position on various power measures. This came to a head earlier this year when she accused the new ERCOT Contingency Reserve Service (ECRS) of inflating the price of power by $8 billion. The program is supposed to incentivize power generators to store more reserve power for high demand periods, such as the blistering summer temperatures that strained the grid just a few months past.
This, combined with Bivens pushback on the building of new natural gas plants, appears to have put her in conflict with the policies favored by ERCOT, PUC, and Governor Greg Abbott. There are some who believe that Bivens is being pushed out for opposing measures that enrich power companies without significantly increasing grid reliability.
Bivens will step down this month.
Also leaving is PUC commissioner Will McAdams. McAdams was appointed by Abbott following Uri in a clean sweep of PUC’s leadership. He has been a fan of some of the new initiatives, including the power hoarding that causes price spikes, as they enable the grid to experiment with new ways of maintaining reliability. However, by the end of summer, McAdams seems to have gotten frustrated with the way some power generators operated during times of curtailment.
The loss of two overseers comes right after Texas voters approved a $5 billion program to fund new natural gas power plants. Opponents called the program a blatant handout to the oil and gas industry, who will get access to low interest loans for the new construction. Nonetheless, Texas voters overwhelmingly approved the measure, remembering the days without power during Uri.
Interestingly, battery storage capacity is specifically excluded from the program. This gives further rise to the idea that it was pushed by fossil fuel generators who have no desire to invest in power storage technology that may inadvertently benefit green energy producers.
Meanwhile, Texans are likely to still see huge electricity bills even as fall temperatures move in. Transmission and Distribution Service Providers (TDSP) increased their price per kilowatt hour last month. These will be used to cover costly updates to the power grid that have been put off for more than a decade. While this is likely to save Texans energy costs and prevent blackouts in the long run, it’s a hard hit to the wallet after the brutal summer.
The state’s power grid problems now have two fewer professionals looking over its shoulder. Unfortunately, they seem to be the ones who were most interested in criticizing the status quo when it comes to power policy.