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Texas Energy Market Watchdog Resigns as Regulators Seek More Control over Monitor’s Role



Carrie Bivens resigned as director of Potomac Economic’s eight-person ERCOT monitoring team “to pursue other opportunities,” the firm confirmed Friday.

Carrie Bivens, who headed a team tasked with overseeing the Electric Reliability Council of Texas’ wholesale electricity market, resigned last week following disagreement with grid officials and potential changes to the market monitor’s structure and independence.

Bivens resigned her position as director of Potomac Economic’s eight-person Independent Market Monitor, or IMM, for ERCOT “to pursue other opportunities,” the firm confirmed Friday. Potomac Economics provides market monitoring, analysis and other services to the electricity and natural gas industries.

“She was an outstanding director and we all wish her the best,” Potomac Economics President David Patton said in a statement. “The IMM Team will be managed by the deputy director as it begins the search for a new director and the day-to-day monitoring work of the team will not be affected.”

Bivens was critical of changes to ERCOT’s market operations and in a September report said an increase in reserve procurements likely raised real-time market energy value by approximately $8 billion over the summer.

She defended her conclusion at an Oct. 17 ERCOT board meeting. “In my opinion, I think we would have been just as reliable this summer without these excess megawatts,” Bivens said.

Bivens began as director of the ERCOT IMM team in 2020 and “played a key role in informing on market oversight and in identifying potential design improvements for the ERCOT wholesale electric market,” ERCOT CEO and President Pablo Vegas said in a statement.

As the independent market monitor, Bivens was “a strong voice for consumers,” Stoic Energy President and Texas market analyst Doug Lewin said in a statement. “At several key moments over the last few years, her principled, unbiased perspective on market reforms, and sometimes necessary pushback against powerful interests, has been invaluable.”

Utility regulators are planning changes to the market monitor’s role, however, raising concerns about the position’s independence. In September, the Public Utility Commission of Texas published a request for proposals seeking an “independent wholesale electric market monitor,” to be known as an EMM.

The RFP noted that regulators are changing the market monitor’s name to align with the legislative language requiring ERCOT to contract with a market watchdog. Other changes require the new EMM to notify the PUCT “of any request to appear or speak before any body or at any conference,” and allows the director of the market monitor to be fired by the executive director of the PUCT.

The changes to the market monitor role are “troublesome,” Sen. Charles Schwertner, R, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, R, said in an October letter to the PUCT.

“Requiring the PUC to be notified of any request for the IMM to speak and the subject matter prior to any appearance is problematic,” they wrote. “The legislature regularly utilizes the independent evaluations of the IMM when contemplating policy, and any requirement to seek permission prior to speaking or to report back to the PUC is inconsistent with the market monitor’s independence.”

While the ERCOT market monitor is hired through a contract with the PUCT, “it is ultimately the people of Texas within ERCOT who pay for this position … and their analysis should not be influenced, nor their recommendations suppressed, by politicians or bureaucrats,” Schwertner and Patrick said.