ERCOT concedes miscalculation of winter storm's impact on Texas power grid

Less than week after the deadly Texas blackout, the president and board of the state's Electric Reliability Council conducted a public autopsy of what many view as an epic and preventable fail. 

The results were frightening - at its worst, the polar blast knocked out a full half of the state's electric generating capacity.

"As the storm system was blowing through the state, one generator after another reported that they were tripped off, they were not able to operate, " said Bill Magness, ERCOT president and CEO.


Five ERCOT board members who live outside of Texas resign in week after power outage, winter storm

Five ERCOT board members will resign on Wednesday, according to a notice to the Public Utility Commission.

Magness conceded his team underestimated the perfect storm of spiking demand, weather severity and generator vulnerability. 


"More electricity was used in the ERCOT system on a winter's day then had ever been used in history," said Magness.

With the grid slipping beneath the 60 hertz minimum, Magness ordered rolling outages - a "load shed" effort which, by a matter of mere minutes, saved Texas from a complete state-wide loss of power which could easily have lasted weeks.

"The only tool we had to maintain control and not slip into a black out and a much worse condition was these outages," said Magness.


As millions lose power, Texas Gov. Abbott declares ERCOT reform an emergency item

ERCOT manages the flow of electric power to more than 26 million Texas customers, representing about 90% of the state's electric load.

The damage control left millions without power, heat, light and water for as much as 70 hours.

"It just took an awfully long time and required so much sacrifice from so many people," said Magness.


ERCOT's performance managing the crisis drew both criticism and praise. 

"For utilities who had to drop more than 30 percent of their customers during this unprecedented weather event it created a humanitarian crisis," said Jackie Sargent, General Manager of Austin Energy and a member of the ERCOT board.

"ERCOT was flying a 747. It had not one, but two engines experience catastrophic failure and 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 were heroes," said ERCOT board member Peter Cramton.

On Thursday in Austin, state lawmakers will begin their own deep dive into the culpability for the cascading disaster.
 "We are going to turn over ever rock and we are going to identify every single failure as it relates to this particular event and then we are going to turn to solutions," said Rep. Chris Paddie, House State Affairs Chairman. 

Magness confirmed electrical generators in Texas have no legal or regulatory obligation to fully weatherize their facilities, a factor he says contributed to critical lost production all from every sector - gas, coal, nuclear, wind and solar.

Magness also reported 6 of 13 generating plants contracted to deliver power in an emergency suffered outages.