Thursday, February 25

Officials to resign from Texas power grid operator after outages


Texas governor welcomes resignations, saying ERCOT’s ‘lack of preparedness and transparency’ is unacceptable.

Officials at the Texas power grid operator responsible for providing electricity to more than 26 million people across the US state are stepping down, after a winter storm cut millions off from electricity and water and led to dozens of deaths.

Four board members of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) are resigning, effective on Wednesday, a day before Texas lawmakers are set to begin hearings over the massive power failure.

All of the resigning board members, including the chairwoman, live outside of Texas – a fact that spurred even greater criticism of the operator.

In a joint resignation letter to grid members and the state’s Public Utility Commission, which oversees ERCOT, they said their decision aims “to allow state leaders a free hand with future direction and to eliminate distractions”.

A car idles in a driveway on Jordan Drive, a street with no power in the early morning in Corpus Christi, Texas on February 17, 2021 [Courtney Sacco/Caller-Times/USA Today Network via Reuters]

Historic snowfall and single-digit temperatures in Texas last week left millions without power and water for days.

The storm was part of any icy blast that has been blamed for at least 80 deaths.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has put much of the blame for the outages on ERCOT, but the problems went beyond the operator, as power plants were knocked offline by the extreme cold and natural gas producers did not protect wellheads from freezing.

Abbott on Tuesday welcomed the ERCOT board resignations, saying the organisation’s “lack of preparedness and transparency … is unacceptable”.

“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,” he said in a statement shared on social media.

Workers installing a utility pole to support power lines after an unprecedented winter storm in Houston, Texas, US [Adrees Latif/Reuters]

Although temperatures got warmer across Texas and power has been restored to most people across the state, over 15,000 homes remained without power on Tuesday, according to PowerOutage.US, which tracks outages across the United States.

The deep freeze also cut many households off from clean water, forcing state officials to set up bottled water distribution points across the state.

Many are questioning how the disaster happened, and calls are growing for accountability and concrete action to prevent a similar situation from happening again.

In an interview with the CBS on Sunday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the disaster was “foreseeable and preventable”.

Turner also said the state must bear responsibility for any exorbitant electricity costs residents may be billed for.



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