At their final meeting before winter storms would leave millions of Texans without power and water for days, top officials at the state electric grid operator spent a mere 40 seconds discussing whether the state was prepared for the impending freeze, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
Bill Magness, president and chief executive officer of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, spoke briefly about the winter weather during his report to the board at the Feb. 9 meeting, the only mention of the incoming storm during the public portion of the virtual meeting, which spanned two hours, 28 minutes.
Magness spoke about the approaching cold front for about 40 seconds:
“It is actually going to be winter here pretty soon. As those of you in Texas know, we do have a cold front coming this way. We’ll probably see our winter peak later this week or in the very early part of next week. And Operations has issued an operating condition notice just to make sure everyone is up to speed with their winterization and we’re ready for the several days of pretty frigid temperatures to come our way.
“So more on that in the next couple of days, but it does look like we’ll have a little bit of winter weather to contend with during the course of the rest of this week. We do have a cold front coming this way.”
When the winter weather hit, bringing frigid temperatures, snow and ice, the state was anything but prepared.
The newspaper recalled that on Sunday, “major generation units begin failing in rapid succession, and early Monday morning, operators at ERCOT ordered a series of rolling blackouts intended to protect the electric grid from a catastrophic failure that could have lasted for months.”
But instead of rolling blackouts, millions of Texans were left without power for days. ERCOT on Friday ended its emergency conditions and reported that operations had “returned to normal,” five days after the blackouts started.
ERCOT has come under fire from state leaders and residents alike. Gov. Greg Abbott designated reform of the operator as an emergency item for lawmakers to tackle during this year’s legislative session, in addition to power system winterization.
As recently as one month ago, operators at ERCOT offered a positive assessment about the preparedness of Texas power plants for winter storms, according to an American-Statesman report.
According to the report, ERCOT’s final meeting before the storm “did not include discussion of weatherization or the impending winter storm, as first reported by KSAT-TV, San Antonio’s ABC affiliate.”
Image: Bill Magness, president and chief executive officer of ERCOT. (Screengrab / KXAN / YouTube)