Texas city leaders have formed a group to communicate directly with ERCOT

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This editorial is one of a series published by the Opinion section of the Dallas Morning News to explore ideas and policies to strengthen electrical reliability. Find the full series here: Keep the lights on.

The week of February 14 is etched in the synapses of most Texans as the week of a statewide freeze that has caused widespread and fatal power outages. What started out as fun in the snow suddenly turned bleak as we experienced shortcomings in almost every utility, largely due to a shortage of power generation capacity.

Thinking about what happened, I couldn’t help but believe that there was a disconnect between the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the state grid, and the end users. . As Mayor of Castle Hills, I wrote a letter to ERCOT sharing my concerns and opinions. Five other San Antonio area mayors added their names to the letter.

We did not get enough information in a timely manner before the blackouts to help our residents make sure they had warm places to sleep, to prevent their pipes from bursting, and to make sure they had enough food to keep their pantry until their refrigerators are turned back on. I proposed to ERCOT to create what has since become the ERCOT Texas Municipal Officers Advisory Council.

But at the time, I was not expecting any response to my letter. All in all, I was glad to know that I was representing Castle Hills and its population of 4,200 in my letter to ERCOT, although nothing came of it.

A month later, I got a call from ERCOT’s Interim Managing Director, Brad Jones. He had been in his new role for two days, had read the letter and was interested in a recommendation that I proposed to open up lines of communication to city officials.

I recommended that ERCOT bring together a group of city leaders from across Texas to meet regularly and establish channels of communication and trust. And the framework for such a council already exists with the existing Texas Municipal League regional map, designed to reach every city, town, and region in Texas. It is not necessary for Jones to reinvent the wheel to stay in touch with local leaders; the league framework is designed to disseminate information widely. I jumped at what I believe to be an opportunity to make our condition a little better than we found it to be.

Over the next month, I worked on drafting the framework and charter for the board of directors with the assistance of Texas Municipal League Deputy Executive Director Rachael Pitts. We were on a quick schedule to plan our first meeting before extreme weather conditions hit this summer and could stretch power generation resources.

Earlier this month, we held our first online meeting of 14 elected officials representing their respective regions of Texas, with one vacant position. We will start regular and scheduled meetings in October.

The board listened intently as Jones and his team explained, in layman’s terms, the intricacies of power demand, generation, reserves and ERCOT responsibilities. The meeting was productive in that the board was able to give Jones a glimpse of what we experienced in our respective communities.

Additionally, Jones was able to provide insight into what he learned in his role as interim CEO. A specific example is the more frequent use of retention alerts by ERCOT. Since the February freeze, ERCOT has adopted a practice of using the Conservation Alert Tool more frequently to help keep demand in line with supply and to provide a larger buffer of reserve capacity. But after Texans lose electricity during a frost, each conservation alert inevitably leads to some degree of PTSD.

The solution: Work on messaging to share ERCOT’s efforts so that more Texans understand that a call for conservation isn’t necessarily a blackout warning, but an orderly way to help keep things going. electricity to flow normally.

The council intends to help fill the electricity shortages we face as a state. We want to be an essential communication channel between ERCOT and end users for years to come.

JR Treviño is the mayor of Castle Hills and chairman of the ERCOT Texas Municipal Officers Advisory Board. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.

Below is a list of the members of the Texas Municipal Officers ERCOT Advisory Board:

President – Region 7

JR Treviño, Mayor of Castle Hills

Region 2

Tobe Shields, Mayor of Spearman

Region 3

Latrelle Joy, Board Member, Lubbock

Region 4

Vacant

Region 5

Deandra Chenault, Councilor, Wichita Falls

Region 6

Stephen Haynes, Mayor of Brownwood

Region 8

Tito Rodriguez, Board Member, North Richland Hills

Region 9

Geary Smith, Mayor of Mexico City

Region 10

Connie Schroeder, Mayor of Bastrop

Region 11

Cathy Skurow, Mayor of Portland

Region 12

Joel Villarreal, Mayor of Rio Grande City

Region 13

Stanley Jaglowski, Deputy Mayor pro tem, Lancaster

Region 14

Beverly Gaines, Pro-Mayor, Webster

Region 15

Jesse Casey, Mayor of Hallsville

Region 16

David Rutledge, Mayor of Bridge City

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