ERCOT’s Board of Directors on Tuesday selected industry veteran Brad Jones as the grid operator’s interim CEO, effective May 4.
Jones, a native Texan, has more than 30 years of experience in the power industry — 11 with former Texas utility giant TXU — and was ERCOT’s COO before being named NYISO’s CEO in 2015. He will replace Bill Magness, whom the board fired March 3 following the February winter storm and ensuing long-term blackouts.
Jones’ term is for one year or until a permanent CEO is chosen. Magness has remained at ERCOT during a 60-day transition period that expires May 3.
The Public Utility Commission last month selected Jones to consult with its director of ERCOT accountability and help guide a financial analysis of the damage wrought by the storm. (See Texas PUC Strengthens Oversight of ERCOT.)
In a statement provided by ERCOT, Jones said he will meet with staff, elected officials and leaders of other state agencies over the next few weeks to develop a 100-day strategic plan to present to officials and the public.
“The plan will put ERCOT on a solid foundation for providing reliable electric service year-round,” he said. “Electricity is the engine of the Texas economy, and Texas businesses expect the driver to be reliable, resilient, trustworthy and competent. I will work to restore ERCOT’s reputation as that reliable and trustworthy driver of our grid and the economy.”
The move was greeted as “good news” by the state’s industry insiders.
“Brad’s selection makes a lot of sense. He has a good reputation at the Texas Capitol, with ERCOT staff and among the Texas stakeholders,” Mark Bruce, Cratylus Advisors principal, told RTO Insider. “He understands the market, the system and the players, so he will come up to speed quickly.”
“He’s super competent and already knows the major Texas and ERCOT issues and players,” energy consultant Alison Silverstein said in an email. “There is a ton of important cleanup and new issues work that has to be done at ERCOT immediately … so it’s good that we’ll have an experienced hand at the ERCOT wheel.”
Jones was ERCOT’s COO for two years before taking over at NYISO grid in 2015. Three years later, he abruptly left the state and returned home to Texas in what was termed a “personal decision.” (See Brad Jones out at NYISO.)
A graduate of Texas Tech University, Jones has served as chairman of the Edison Electric Institute’s Executive Advisory Committee and as a member of the Gulf Coast Power Association’s board.
The ERCOT board approved Jones’ nomination following just over two hours of deliberation in executive session. Given the highly unlikely probability of hiring a full-time CEO before Magness’ transition ended, ERCOT legal staff recommended the board select an interim CEO “with all of the rights, powers and duties” of the position.
Peter Lake, newly sworn in as the PUC’s chairman, led the meeting after being approved as the presiding director. The board has been without a chair since its unaffiliated directors resigned in February after the storms.
“I appreciate your trust in me running these meetings,” Lake said, one of his first public comments after being appointed to the PUC earlier this month. (See Lawmakers Wave Through Texas PUC Appointees.)
Lake and Will McAdams, also now officially sworn in as a commissioner, will both make comments May 3 when the Technical Advisory Committee’s leadership hosts a summer preparedness workshop.
Magness drew political heat following the grid’s near collapse in February that is thought to have killed as many as 200 Texans, caused hundreds of billions in damages and left the ERCOT market in financial distress. Testifying for almost 11 hours before four state Senate and House committees on Feb. 25, Magness said he would not have done anything differently in the leadup to the massive load shed, but he admitted that ERCOT’s communications efforts could have been much better. (See Texas Lawmakers Dig into Power Outages.)