Texas Power Grid About to Lose Key Oversight as Winter Looms

(Bloomberg) -- Two key figures in the oversight of Texas’ power infrastructure are set to resign at a critical time for the second-largest US state amid booming electricity demand.

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Carrie Bivens, the independent market monitor for the Texas grid, plans to step down, the Public Utility Commission of Texas confirmed on Wednesday. Bivens, appointed in 2020, emerged as a vocal critic of power-market reforms after a deadly winter storm in early 2021.

Separately, Will McAdams, Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s first post-storm appointee to help lead the state’s utility regulator, also plans to resign, according to people familiar with the decision who asked not to be identified.

The imminent departure of two key players may force Abbott to recast efforts to shore up an increasingly fragile power grid. More than two years after a historic arctic chill killed hundreds of Texans, blacked out millions and paralyzed the state for almost a week, power-system reforms remain a hotly contested topic in the Lone Star State.

Bivens’ role as market monitor has been to provide neutral analyses of proposed market-rule changes. But the independence of that position was recently thrown into question when the state grid manager known as Ercot sought to extend control over the position.

Read More: Texas’ New Electricity Rules Sent Grid Prices Soaring

McAdams was nominated by Abbott to occupy one of the four Public Utility Commission seats in the aftermath of the February 2021 freeze. The appointment was part of a post-disaster clean sweep of the agency’s leadership.

The commission’s brief expanded this week after Texans approved the creation of a $5 billion fund to help finance new power plants via low-interest loans or grants.

Read More: Texas Voters Back $5 Billion Fund for Fossil-Fuel Power Plants

Since McAdams joined the commission, the PUC has pushed through reforms to procure more electricity reserves, help cover power-plant fuel costs and oversee implementation of efforts to insure against another grid disaster. That effort, however, has led to artificial power-supply shortages, driving prices to some of the highest seen since 2021, according to a Bloomberg News analysis.

(Updates with Public Utility Commission confirmation in the second paragraph.)

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