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The board, which oversees the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the independent nonprofit unit that operates and manages the grid that covers much of Texas, fired ERCOT CEO Bill Magness Wednesday night.
The board’s move to vote for a “60-day notice of termination” came after they met in a private executive session for more than three hours. The board hardly discussed its decision once it returned to the public session.
The decision is the latest of several recently announced departures from the ERCOT board, which also included Magness. Seven board members withdrew after public criticism that many board members did not live in Texas.
On Monday, Lieutenant Colonel Dan Patrick had called on both Magness and the chairman of the PUC to resign. DeAnn Walker, the former chairman of PUC, resigned the same day. She had come under sharp criticism from lawmakers after largely blaming Texas’ power outages to ERCOT. Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday appointed Walker’s successor.
Magness, which endured more than five hours of interrogation by state senators on Thursday, was criticized for the organization’s preparations for a winter storm. ERCOT underestimated the maximum amount of power required by homes, businesses and industry during a severe winter storm in its autumn forecasts, and it overestimated the amount of power generation that would be available to the grid during such a storm.
As huge amounts of power began to travel offline in the early hours of February 15, far beyond what was expected, ERCOT network operators were forced to order utilities to launch controlled outages to prevent the entire system from collapsing. Lawmakers complained that the network administrator was not doing enough to warn state leaders or the public about the impending disaster.
In its testimony last week, Magness defended ERCOT’s handling of the disruptions, telling lawmakers that if ERCOT operators had not acted as they did, “the suffering we saw last week would be exacerbated” and Texans would likely be without power. for several weeks. Magness also defended ERCOT as a unit that performs what state legislators and PUC directly.
“The Commission approves the policy, we implement it,” Magness said.
Magness told lawmakers he earns $ 803,000 annually, which he said comes from Texans who pay their electricity bills.
Magness did not talk about the board’s decision, only that he abstained because it involved himself. Magness also said he was not present for any relevant discussion in the private management session.
Walker, who testified after Magness during the hearings with lawmakers, said she disagreed with his characterization of how much oversight PUC had of ERCOT, saying the commission “has not been given legal authority by the lawmaker to require winter weather treatment.” primary concern after the power crisis was triggered by power plants tripping offline. Many electric generators are not built to withstand extreme temperatures in cold weather in Texas.
Magness worked for ERCOT for more than a decade and became CEO and President in 2016 after working as an Advocate General. He previously held senior positions in the public and private utilities sector. A lawyer, he also previously worked as a chief counsel in state and federal legislative matters.