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    Texas’ chief power grid regulator resigns amid major overhaul

    June 3, 2023 - Philip Jankowski, The Dallas Morning News


      AUSTIN – Texas’ top power grid regulator Peter Lake announced his resignation Friday.

      Lake led the PUC through a two-year tenure defined by the deadly 2021 winter storm that killed hundreds of Texans and exposed weaknesses in the grid’s resiliency that festered for at least a decade.

      As head of the commission of governor appointees, he had an outsized influence over the first major overhaul of the ERCOT electric market in more than 20 years as well as the implementation of weatherization standards for the grid’s power generators.

      “When I arrived at the PUCT in April 2021, our electric grid was in crisis,” Lake said in an emailed statement. “Thanks to the hard work of the teams here and at ERCOT, and my fellow commissioners, today our grid is more reliable than ever.”

      Gov. Greg Abbott’s office first announced Peter Lake’s resignation Friday. Lake will leave the agency on July 1.

      “Peter Lake is a true public servant who stepped up during a critical time in our state to help rebuild not only the PUC, but Texans’ trust in those charged with providing reliable power,” Abbott said in a news release.

      Lake was the chief proponent of the “performance credit mechanism,” which the commission agreed to adopt in January. The redesign of the ERCOT electric market aimed to create a marketplace weighted toward natural gas power plants by carving out more than one-quarter of the $20 billion market solely for those types of generation.

      The idea behind it stemmed from the 2021 winter storm, which left millions of Texans in the dark for days and brought the grid to a brink of collapse.

      In the aftermath, the entire Public Utility Commission was either fired or resigned as lawmakers reckoned with the fallout. ERCOT’s leadership was also sacked.

      Abbott appointed Lake to the board in April 2021. He had served as chairman of the Texas Water Development Board before Abbott’s appointment.

      Under Lake’s guidance, the PUC adopted weatherization standards for power plants and began the multi-year project to improve the resilience of Texas’ power grid through a market redesign.

      While multiple studies have shown that the failures of Texas electricity infrastructure were across all types of power generation, the PUC zeroed in on creating regulations that would favor power plants that could be on at the flick of a switch if Texas saw its power supply nearing critical levels.

      In Texas, that so-called dispatchable energy means natural gas power plants. The PUC approved regulations favoring them- and Texas’ top energy producers signaled their approval with vows to build more natural gas-fired power plants.

      All the while, Lake withstood continued calls to directly penalize renewable energy. He vowed to create market reforms that were “technology neutral” to move Texas away from a “crisis based” market model that encouraged power producers to operate on the razor’s edge between optimal prices and grid collapse.

      “Together we’ve overcome sometimes seemingly insurmountable challenges and delivered on our promise to Texans that we’d keep the lights on,” Lake said in his statement. “While there are challenges ahead, I know the PUCT is well positioned to continue the incredible progress we’ve made.”

      ©2023 The Dallas Morning News. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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