ERCOT faces backlash after Texas winter storm

By: Nicholas Ratcliff 

Multimedia Journalist  

During the recent winter storm, the state of Texas suffered massive power outages that caused nearly four million homes to be without consistent power for more than a few days in a row. The outage also contributed to the death of over 20 Texans because they either took unsafe measures to stay warm or died from hypothermia itself.  

ERCOT workers attempting to fix the power.
Photo Courtesy of Business Insider.

While other states also suffered similar conditions and outages, Texas was unique due to the fact that it is on its own power grid. Known as ERCOT, the grid is run by a group known as the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.  

Texas established ERCOT back in 1970 after a severe power outage hit most of Northeastern Texas and the state realized it needed a group of people to regulate its power industry.  

Due to the fact this grid only exists within the state of Texas, it is completely unregulated by the federal government and only has to respect what the ERCOT regulates. This has allowed the power companies of Texas to operate with a different level of freedom that other states power company’s do not have and ensures they should be held responsible for not preparing properly.  

Back in 2011, Texas faced a winter storm that froze gas wells, affected coal plants and wind turbines. The weather caused several power outages but the areas affected were more limited due to the smaller size of the storm. After this storm the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation both looked into what happened and reported that if ERCOT simply prepared for colder weather none of those outages would have occurred. 

While ERCOT reports that they made slight adjustments to the generators affected by the winter storm in 2011, these reports were mostly ignored by them and the Texas Legislature that also failed to act.  Earlier this month as Texans struggled to find ways to stay warm, state politicians started making political remarks by blaming ether clean energy reliance or reliance on fossil fuels as the reason Texas’s grid failed. 

According to Dan Woodfin, the senior director at ERCOT, not one source of energy can be blamed because, “Nuclear units, gas units, wind turbines, even solar, in different ways — the very cold weather and snow has impacted every type of generator.”  

With the blame being placed on ERCOT itself for choosing to ignore the reports and findings of multiple reports that hinted all the way back in 2011 that this could be a problem, the council is facing some backlash.  

Morgan and Morgan a national law firm with more than 700 attorneys has filed a class action lawsuit against ERCOT alleging that the nonprofit had failed to prepare for the blackouts despite multiple warnings. They are not alone, according to ABC, the family of an 11-year-old boy who died during the storm and power outages has also filed a 100-million-dollar lawsuit against the ERCOT.  

ERCOT’s top board leaders have all announcing that they will be stepping down as they have acknowledged the outraged the company has faced. These board members, who do not live in Texas, released their apology last Tuesday stating, “We want to acknowledge the pain and suffering of Texans during this past week, our hearts go out to all Texans who have had to go without electricity, heat and water during frigid temperatures and continue to face the tragic consequences of this emergency.”  

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