Brad Jones agreed to become the interim CEO of ERCOT back in April of 2021. His tenure will end on October 1 when his replacement Pablo Vegas takes over the helm.
As his tenure comes to a close, Jones answered a few questions on the latest episode of WFAA’s Y’all-itics podcast.
Jones was asked what lessons ERCOT has learned through the last few years, particularly since the 2021 grid failure. Jones said ERCOT is finally admitting its mistakes and learning to accept some of the blame for the failure.
One area in particular where ERCOT was suffering was communication, according to Jones. When the grid failed in the winter of 2021, Jones said every major stakeholder told a different story, from ERCOT to transmission companies to the Public Utilities Commission.
Now, Jones affirmed that ERCOT has taken on a leadership role to ensure Texans hear one coordinated message during an emergency.
The other major lesson ERCOT has learned and applied is an increased focus on reliability. Jones said ERCOT’s push for affordability over reliability finally caught up during the February 2021 winter storm.
“In the last 20 years, we’ve let the market push us toward low-cost and more affordability, and giving up reliability,” Jones explained. “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 was asked about his confidence level in the electricity staying on for Texans throughout the upcoming winter. Jones said he is abundantly confident, primarily due to the significant changes ERCOT has implemented across the Texas grid under his watch.
“There’s no guarantees in life anywhere, right?” Jones said. “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.”
One of the most significant changes ERCOT has undertaken since the 2021 grid failure is the weatherization of the grid, which helps all of the equipment withstand weather extremes.
Jones said the statewide weatherization rule has been effective since it was implemented last year. One month after the rule was implemented, ERCOT inspected 302 facilities to see if they met the requirements, and 300 of them passed. The other two fixed their problems quickly and eventually passed as well, said Jones.
Jones also stated that expanding renewable energy sources will be necessary for Texas in the future and that increased wind and solar energy investments will only help lower Texans’ electricity bills.
On the flip side, Jones did concede that there are days when wind energy can not contribute and that there will be times during the winter months when solar is not as strong.
“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.”