ERCOT Wednesday Board Meeting Gives More Details But Fails To Take Accountability For Blackout

Submitted by Ryan Cortez on

Yesterday the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) held an emergency board meeting where it released more detailed information about the magnitude of the blackouts that hit most of Texas last week as the severe winter storm spread into Texas.  Despite the new details which were shocking, ERCOT still maintains this was all beyond its control, something many Texans don’t believe and are angry about, and with several lawsuits now filed against ERCOT.  We asked ERCOT about the lawsuits and were told they can not speak about pending litigation.

During the meeting CEO Bill Magness spoke about the situation leading up to the power outages saying “this was a devastating event, … Power is essential to civilization.”  According to ERCOT 356 generators were knocked offline during the winter storm leaving an estimated 14 million Texans without power, and at least half of those didn’t have power for 70.5 hours, which is a new record for Texas.  ERCOT also said that six of the 13 units it has contracts with in case of a blackout event also were also offline.  

What ERCOT did not say was that a severe winter storm in 1998 and another one in 2011 also created blackouts.  Those storms were similar in severity, but fewer power plants were knocked offline.  Rebecca Knox is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service and says “in 1998 and in 2011 the exact route, path and size of those storms was similar to the one that happened last week, but the individual fluctuations and human development and demand will always play a role in the particular reasons why some plants were offline and some were not.”  Following both of those winter storm events, investigations were conducted and reports issued.  In both of those reports, ERCOT and the power plant operators were told that they should spend the money to winterize their plants and supply chain.  Each time, they elected not to.  Despite this, ERCOT still maintains they had no way to have avoid this most recent blackout last week.  Of the 356 plants that were knocked offline, 14 had done some minor winterizing, but was not enough to be effective.

The ERCOT failures have lead to six resignations and revelation that many board members are not even in Texas, one teaches at the University of Cologne in Germany.  Gov. Greg Abbott said he “welcomes” their resignations.

Here’s who resigned so far;

Board Chairman All Talberg

Board Vice Chairman Peter Crampton

Finance and Audit Committee Chairman Terry Bulger

Human Resources Governance Committee Chairman Raymond Hepper

Market Segment Director Vanessa Anesetti-Parra

Independent Retail Electric Provider Segment Randal Miller

All but one lives out-of-state, and Craig S. Ivey withdrew his application to fill a board vacancy.  Adding to the public outcry of lack of transparency and failure to be prepared, ERCOT removed the names of its board members from its website.

As the severe winter storm approached Texas, only one power plant operator notified ERCOT and the state about a possible outage and recommended that the public stock up on supplies or leave the area.  ERCOT did not release that notice to the public and told the state and the public that they are prepared.  “ERCOT had two options, require power plants to winterize, or be upfront and transparent with people about the probable outage they knew would happen so that people could have prepared in advance to survive the storm.  I mean they knew at least one electric plant said it might lose ability to generate power, and they knew not enough plants winterized from those two previous storms, a teenager could have predicted what was gonna happen, so why the hell do they deserve their high paid job” says Tesha Richardson of Austin.

“Sadly more people don’t prepare for possible disasters, they just don’t think it can happen to them, they don’t evaluate the risk involved, and they lack an understanding of how fragile our infrastructure and civil society is” says Jacob Diaz, a self-proclaimed survivalist and “prepper” and a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps.  “Everyone should have at least a weeks supply of food, water, cooking gas, medicine, pet food if you have pets and first aid supplies at the minimum.  Even better is to have a generator, a whole house is great, but most people can’t afford that, so even small one that can power a few lights and charge up your phones and computers and maybe keep a small fridge cold is all you need.  Most of use get our information from the internet, so having your phone powered is important.  Emergency messages were delivered to everyone via our phones during this blackout.  One step even better, is to have your own two-way radios so you can communicate with others in your area.”

The disaster isn't over yet, clean water still has not been restored to hundreds of thousands across Texas.  At one point an estimated 15 million Texans didn't have running water or were under a boil water alert.  ERCOT admitted that Texas was just 4 minutes and 37 seconds away from a blackout that would have lasted for weeks or longer and could have brought down the entire grid in Texas.  Fast action by power transmission providers like CenterPoint Energy, Oncor and Austin Energy being able to initiate blackouts helped prevent a total collapse of the entire Texas Interconnection grid.

-- I'm Ryan Cortez, and I wrote this article to bring to light more facts not being shared by ERCOT.  This article is written from my viewpoint and Texas News Express did not have input in this article.