AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texans got their first chance Thursday afternoon to hear publicly from the new leader of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the organization that manages the state’s power grid.
Pablo Vegas began serving as ERCOT’s new president and CEO on Oct. 1. The organization’s board of directors announced in August they chose him for that position after an “exhaustive nationwide search.” He previously led a utility company that served a six-state area and worked before that in Texas and with ERCOT as president and chief operating officer for AEP Texas in 2008.
Vegas addressed reporters at a news conference Thursday alongside Peter Lake, the chairman of the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC). One of the first questions he received focused on what he plans to do to rebuild trust after what happened during the February 2021 winter storm.
“The key is going to be continued reliable execution,” Vegas said, pointing to how the grid performed this summer when heat and power demand shattered records.
“Achieving reliable operations over extreme weather conditions, that’s how you continue to build trust. You have to continue to see that happen,” he added. “Yesterday we set a new record for the month of October. We reached the highest energy demand ever in an October day yesterday, and the grid performed reliably. We continue to be tested. We continue to pass those tests. That’s how we rebuild the trust and the faith in the reliability of the electric grid.”
Lake touted implementation of reforms enacted last year, including creating a maintenance schedule for power plants across the state. He said that helped space out work on those facilities and created less interruption to the power supply.
“The bottom line is the generator fleet is being maintained albeit under a different paradigm now under the direction of ERCOT,” Lake said, “and those generators are ready and able to perform when we need them as we saw this last summer.”
Before ERCOT hired Vegas, Brad Jones occupied that leadership role on an interim basis since April 2021. Jones took over after Bill Magness, the previous president and CEO, was issued a termination notice in March 2021 following the widespread criticism ERCOT received in the wake of the deadly February 2021 winter storm. Millions were left in the dark and cold for days after power generators failed from the prolonged subfreezing temperatures.
Several ERCOT members also resigned following the storm, and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed two bills into law to reform ERCOT in June 2021. The bills, among other things, required electricity providers operating on the ERCOT grid to weatherize their equipment.
During Thursday’s news conference, Lake said the PUC will share its report about the proposed redesign of the wholesale electric market “as soon as possible,” but he speculated that likely would not be released until mid-November. He said it’s imperative the changes help build more power-generating sources for the state to use.
Vegas said he could not offer much information right now about whether the market redesign would affect staffing at ERCOT since the plan is not finalized yet.