Austin, 15 other cities demand ERCOT cooperation with state power outage investigation


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Sixteen mayors across the state of Texas, including Austin’s top elected leader, are demanding the state’s electric grid operator cooperate with investigations into power failures that left millions in the dark for days.

Mayor Steve Adler signed his name alongside 15 other mayors in a letter sent to Bill Magness, the president and CEO of the Energy Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).

“Our cities have worked around the clock to address our residents’ needs during this emergency. Our infrastructure has been challenged, damaged and unresponsive at the time of our highest need,” the letter began. “As a result, it has become painfully clear that our communities were made vulnerable by numerous decisions by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas’ leadership.”

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg posted a copy of the letter Monday night on Twitter. His tweet stated he initiated the request and demanded “state leaders to shine a light on the ERCOT protocols and procedures that left so many of us in the dark.”

ERCOT previously stated about 40% of the power supply got knocked offline when the strong winter storm rolled in early Monday morning, as it caused several power generators to go down quickly. Magness explained the operators at ERCOT made a decision to mandate rolling outages, which lasted much longer than initially stated, to maintain balance with the overwhelming demand and dwindling supply as well as avoid a complete collapse of the electric grid.

ERCOT finally announced at the end of last week that it returned to “normal operations” after instituting those emergency measures.

The letter from the group of Texas mayors stated, “ERCOT’s grid management protocols and policies during the cold weather did not seem to take into consideration exposure to sustained freezing temperatures. Additionally, how ERCOT chose to manage the grid during the extended cold weather led to unpredictable and inconsistent blackouts across our cities, contradicting the experience that our communities were prepared to endure.”

The mayors further said in their letter that ERCOT failed to communicate with local leaders about the situation.

“We are also concerned that the current fiscal models and business plans that ground ERCOT’s partnership with our utilities seems to prioritize revenue generation over other similarly important priorities,” the letter stated.

The letter called on state leaders to investigate what happened. Legislative hearings are scheduled to begin Thursday to examine how both ERCOT and the Public Utility Commission of Texas handled the crisis. Lawsuits against ERCOT have also been filed recently by communities as well as family members of people who died during the outages.

In their letter to the ERCOT CEO, the mayors said they will assist in any oversight that happens next.

“Our residents deserve answers — and they deserve reliable energy for their homes and businesses,” they wrote. “We are confident that you agree ERCOT’s deficiencies must be addressed, and we urge you to act as soon as possible. Texans are counting on their elected leadership to provide solutions.”

The other mayors who signed the letter include those from Amarillo, Arlington, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Fort Worth, Galveston, Houston, Irving, Laredo, McAllen, McKinney, Pharr, Plano and Sugar Land.

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