The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is a membership-based non-profit corporation that operates the Texas power grid, which is one of three major grids in the United States. As of July 2010, ERCOT served 23 million customers, about 85 percent of the state’s electric load and 75 percent of Texas land (El Paso and much of the Panhandle, as well as small slices of Northeast and Southeast Texas like outside ERCOT's territory). ERCOT is charged with, among other things, planning and operating the grid to ensure reliability, and managing the wholesale market for electricity. ERCOT’s responsibilities increased in 1995 when the Legislature began to deregulate the electricity industry in Texas.
A large percentage of ERCOT’s Board members are representatives from the industry it oversees — as of September 2010, only six of the 17 current members listed as independent — causing some controversy. In the July 2010 review of ERCOT, the Sunset Advisory Commission confirmed that the makeup of the Board gives sway to members with financial interest in the outcome of the electric market, while residential consumers are underrepresented in the decision-making process. These findings led the Sunset Advisory Commission to recommend several changes to ERCOT, such as adding a member to the Board to represent environmental interests and removing members with financial ties to the electric market.
ERCOT has also come under fire in recent years for delays and huge cost overruns on a project, called the "nodal market", to overhaul how the grid works. That project went live in December 2010.
An ERCOT report, released in December 2011, warned that Texans could see rolling blackouts in the summer of 2012. The reported said that the rising demand for electricity coupled with the unavailability of some powerplants made the blackouts likely. Warm weather and drought conditions are also a factor. The report follows threats of rolling blackouts during the previous summer.