Bill Magness the CEO of ERCOT has been fired as of March 3rd. Of all of the people involved in the disaster, I feel like this guy got the short end of the stick and was the scape goat for a disaster that was mainly a result of legislative and regulatory failures. On Monday, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick called for the resignation of both Bill Magness – CEO of ERCOT and DeAnn Walker – Commission Chair of the Public Utility Commission.
Bill Magness Screwed Up, But It Wasn’t All His Fault
Bill Magness did screw up royally by not heeding the weatherman’s warnings and anticipating the failures of multiple gas generation plants. According to his testimony in the Texas House of Representatives, ERCOT had pretty much estimated accurately the amount of load that would be needed during the storm and was confident they had the supply to cover it. What they did not forecast was that there wouldn’t be anywhere near enough gas powered generation supply to fulfill that load. This resulted in a dangerous game of back and forth between ERCOT and the Transmission Distribution Utility companies (TDUs) attempting to shed enough load so that the system would stabilize and not crater into a complete black out. So I do give the guy credit for preventing that catastrophe. Had he not instructed the TDUs to cut the power and keep it off, we wouldn’t have power right now. Apparently, a complete blackout of the entire grid would lead to chaos and it would take at least a month to fire it back up again.
Not the Best at Public Relations
He also was the face of an organization that had some serious PR issues during the whole thing. Apparently ERCOT was not aware of their key position as a public messenger and did not get the message out to anyone that a deadly winter storm was likely to cause blackouts and terror across the state. Of course no one knew how bad it would be, but these guys did have insight on the storm and failed to warn the public…miserably.
Rolling Black-Outs = Indefinite Power Outages
They miscommunicated and failed to change the term “rotating outages” to “indefinite power outages.” The one message I do remember receiving is that there would be “rotating outages” in my area. A “rotating outage” sounds like a minor disturbance that you don’t necessarily need to prepare for – besides grabbing a few flash lights and some snacks. Indefinite power outages during sub-zero temperatures with no way of transportation are a whole other ball-game. We were literally running out of food and seriously freezing on day 3 of the disaster with no way of getting food or warmth. We had no heater, no fireplace, and no way to drive to the store. The stores were all closed or ransacked anyways. There were people walking down the middle of the street dragging firewood. It was surreal.
Farewell ERCOT & PUC Heads
So farewell Bill Magness and DeAnn Walker, the two heads of the two bodies that regulate and control the utility industry in Texas (PUC & ERCOT). Cheers to Bill Magness for not accepting his $800,000 severace pay! It’s funny he accepted that kind of pay at all. Isn’t that more than like the President of the United States? This is a historic week for the Texas Electric Industry to say the least.
What About the Rail Road Commission?
However I do wonder why the chair of the Rail Road Commission, Christi Craddick isn’t on the chopping block. The Rail Road Commission doesn’t have much to do with rail roads anymore – they regulate Oil & Gas, Coal and Pipelines in the State of Texas. She must have some serious ties to the good ol’ boys club. The failure of the gas suppliers was, according to Vistra Corp., the main issue that prevented the gas generation plants from supplying power during the storm. According to the CEO Curt Morgan, Gas plants were 90% available, they just couldn’t get the gas from the suppliers. He says the big story was the failure of the gas system to perform. Well heads froze up, they froze up to get gas into the lines, and gas processing plants lost electricity during the rotating outages. Gas pressure and gas availability was the main issue. If you can’t get enough gas in the pipes, you can’t perform at max capacity.
The CEO of NRG Energy echoed this, stating that fuel supply was a major issue and that if the natural gas system is compromised, the entire system is compromised. He stated that 1/2 of their system runs on natural gas and they saw the same issues. The more I think about this, the more crazy it is to me that Greg Abbot said windmills caused the catastrophe. I will do more research on the Rail Road Commission’s part in the scheme and report back to you. Cheers.