UPDATED: March 10, 2021: Gov. Greg Abbott, R, on Tuesday declared the correction of any billing errors, including inaccurate or excessive charges and issues on ancillary service pricing, an emergency matter for immediate consideration by the legislature.
- Texas Public Utility Commissioner Shelly Botkin resigned effective immediately Monday evening, the regulatory body announced in a statement.
- Her departure follows the resignation of Chair DeAnn Walker earlier this month, leaving the commission with just one member: Walker's replacement as chair, Arthur D'Andrea. It also follows Botkin and D'Andrea's decision to not ask the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) to correct real-time price inflation that occurred during the mass outages that plagued the state for days in February.
- Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Monday called on the commission to retroactively reprice that time period, which ERCOT's independent market monitor (IMM) estimated cost the market $16 billion over the course of 32 hours.
Botkin's resignation is the latest in a series of personnel fallouts following the February cold snap that led ERCOT to trigger days-long outages in the region. ERCOT CEO Bill Magness was fired by ERCOT's board of directors last week and seven members of the board have resigned.
Gov. Greg Abbott, R, appointed D'Andrea to replace Walker last week, leaving the commission with just two regulators at the time. During an open meeting Friday, the commissioners addressed a recent report from the market monitor that found scarcity prices remained inflated 32 hours longer than was appropriate, costing the ERCOT market billions. Despite the IMM's recommendation that the PUC ask ERCOT to reprice that period, regulators declined to act, citing an "unknowable" path ahead for customers if they were to retroactively change the prices.
But the state's lieutenant governor on Monday joined IMM's calls for ERCOT "to correct the emergency pricing error that continued after the power shortage had ended and the major threat to the Texas grid had passed," citing the market monitor's findings that inflated pricing of $9,000/MWh should have ended the evening of Feb. 17, but instead lasted throughout Feb. 18 and into Feb. 19. Patrick in a statement also said his office had learned the IMM contacted ERCOT to inform them of their error, but ERCOT ignored the market monitor's recommendation to lower the market price.
They also cited a second "significant error" found by the IMM: that pricing at one point had exceeded the ancillary services cap of $9,000/MWh, resulting in prices reaching as high as $24,000/MWh at some intervals.
"Pricing should never have exceeded the $9,000 cap at any time," Patrick said in a statement. "The IMM has recommended that the PUC exercise their authority to direct ERCOT to correct both these pricing errors, but they have declined to do so. ERCOT has a procedure for correcting pricing errors, but has also declined to act so far. ... Correcting this $16 billion error will require an adjustment, but it is the right thing to do. It will ultimately benefit consumers and is one important step we can take now to begin to fix what went wrong in the storm."