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ERCOT interim CEO Brad Jones blames the grid’s 2021 failures on organization’s mixed-up priorities

By Michael McCardel

WFAA ABC News 8

 

Before his run atop ERCOT ends next month, the outgoing interim CEO says he’s proud that the organization has shifted its focus from affordability to reliability.

 

DALLAS — It’s a job no one wanted: restoring reliability within the Texas electric grid.

 

And yet Brad Jones still took the Governor’s call when it came, and he agreed to become the interim CEO of ERCOT back in April of 2021 — a job he’ll hold until October when his replacement Pablo Vegas takes over the helm.

 

Before he rides off into the sunset, though, Jones joined the Jasons to answer a few questions on the latest episode of our Y’all-itics podcast.

 

Our first question: How confident is Jones that our heat and lights will stay on over the course of the upcoming winter?

 

As for his answer? Jones said he’s plenty confident — in large part due to the significant changes ERCOT has implemented across the Texas grid under his watch.

 

“There’s no guarantees in life anywhere, right?” Jones told the Jasons. “We don’t know what kind of winter it might be, but I have a lot of confidence. Now, we can’t expect to have a 130-year storm every year, right? We had a cold winter this last winter, but it was nowhere near 2021.”

 

Jones said one of the most important steps taken to improve the grid was weatherization, which helps all of the equipment withstand weather extremes. It’s been working, too: Jones said that, one month after the statewide weatherization rule was implemented last year, ERCOT inspected 302 facilities to see if they met the requirements, and 300 of them passed. The other two, Jones said, fixed their problems quickly and eventually passed as well.

 

But Jones also told us that ERCOT has learned a number of big lessons — namely admitting its mistakes and learning to accept some blame — through the last few years.

 

One ERCOT weakness in particular, Jones said, was communication. When the grid melted down in the winter of 2021, Jones says every major stakeholder was telling a different story, from ERCOT to transmission companies to the Public Utilities Commission. Now, Jones told Y’all-itics, ERCOT takes on a leadership role to make sure Texans will hear one coordinated message during an emergency.

 

The other major change Jones said he’s worked on is an increased focus on reliability. Unfortunately, he said, ERCOT’s push for affordability over reliability finally caught up to it in February 2021.

 

“In the last 20 years, we’ve let the market push us toward low-cost and more affordability, and giving up reliability,” Jones explained to the Jasons. “And every small step that we took, we said, ‘OK, alright, maybe we don’t do that reliable thing because it costs too much.’ Every small step we took led us down to the path that ended up in 2021. So we’ve changed that.”

 

Jones also told us that renewable energy sources are a must moving forward for Texas, and that wind and solar energy investments will only help lower our bills in Texas. On the flip side, though, he added that it must also be acknowledged  that there are days when wind won’t contribute, and that there will be times during the winter months when solar isn’t as strong as it is during the summer.

 

“Now, as we bring more wind and solar into the state, which I think is a phenomenal thing for us, we’re attracting them, coming in at a low price, the feds are helping pay for half of it, right?” Jones said. “So, that’s good for Texas. We like the feds paying for half of it. And, so, we get those resources in our market, [and] that’s going to bring down our price quite a bit because of those economic resources.”

 

Originally posted on WFAA ABC News 8.

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