Five board members of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), including the chairman and vice-chairman, officially resigned after an urgent board meeting on Wednesday as a result of the state’s energy grid failing to provide power to a majority of the state during last week’s winter weather.
The urgent board of directors meeting took place on Feb. 24, where ERCOT began the process of examining what happened to cause the mass power outages during the severe winter storm. According to their findings on the system failure, Texas was only four minutes and 37 seconds away from experiencing a complete power grid collapse, which would have resulted in Texas being without power for weeks.
The ERCOT, which manages roughly 90 percent of the state’s power for 26 million customers, made national news for its large-scale failure to provide millions of Texans with power, and subsequently no heat or water for several days, during below-freezing temperatures.
The five board members that resigned, none of which are residents of Texas include Vice Chairman Peter Cramton, Board Chairwoman Sally Talberg, and members Terry Bulger, Raymond Hepper and Vanessa Anesetti-Parra.
ERCOT said in a statement concerning the resignations, “We look forward to working with the Texas Legislature, and we thank the outgoing Board Members for their service.”
During the urgent board meeting, now former ERCOT Chairwoman Sally Talberg mentioned several people who had reached out to the company with stories that expressed fear and suffering from inhumane conditions many Texans faced last week during the winter storm.
Some of these stories included accounts of people being unable to reach elderly family members who were experiencing power outages and mothers crying out of desperation to feed and provide for their children.
“These are heartbreaking situations that people face…” Sally said. “ERCOT may not own the powerplants, wind farms, gas conductor stations, poles and wires. But it manages the flow of power in this state. And when there is an emergency and it is unavailable it can be life-threatening, particularly for the most vulnerable.”
Peter Crampton, now former Vice Chairmen for ERCOT highlighted the importance of the energy company avoiding a black start, which is the process of restoring part of an electric grid from a total or partial shutdown.
“ERCOT was flying a 747,” Crampton said. “It had not one, but two engines experience catastrophic failure, then flew the damaged plane for 103 hours before safely landing in the Hudson. In my mind, the men and women in the ERCOT control room are heroes.”
Gov. Greg Abbott, published a statement condemning the lack of preparedness and transparency by ERCOT and welcomed their resignations.
“When Texans were in desperate need of electricity, ERCOT failed to do its job, and Texans were left shivering in their homes without power,” Abbott said. “ERCOT leadership made assurances that Texas’ power infrastructure was prepared for the winter storm, but those assurances proved to be devastatingly false… The state of Texas will continue to investigate ERCOT and uncover the full picture of what went wrong, and we will ensure that the disastrous events of last week are never repeated.”
On Friday, Feb. 19, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued Civil Investigation Demands (CIDs) to ERCOT and 11 other power companies regarding power outages, emergency plans, energy pricing, and more related to this week’s winter weather disaster.
“I’m using the full scope of my Constitutional powers to launch an investigation into ERCOT and other entities that grossly mishandled this week’s extreme winter weather,” Paxton said in a statement. “While Texans pulled together to get their communities through this disaster, they were largely left in the dark. We will get to the bottom of this power failure and I will tirelessly pursue justice for Texans.”
ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness will be testifying during two Legislative hearings this Thursday, Feb. 25 at 9 a.m. The Senate Business and Commerce hearing will be accessible through live video broadcast. Additionally, the Joint House Hearing, also taking place at 9 a.m. can be accessed here.
“What ERCOT wants to do at the legislative hearings tomorrow and going forward is provide an explanation, not excuses,” Magness said.
Texas residents can submit comments regarding the legislative hearings to be distributed to the House of Representatives here.