Five board members of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), Texas’s power grid operator, resigned Tuesday after the state power system failed during a deadly winter storm, leaving more than 4 million customers losing electricity amid subfreezing temperatures.
All of the five board directors live outside Texas. Their resignations are effective Wednesday, just a day before Texas lawmakers are expected to question grid managers and energy officials about the failures during hearings at the state Capitol.
ERCOT Chair Sally Talberg, Vice Chair Peter Cramton, and board members Terry Bulger and Raymond Hepper, wrote in a joint letter addressed to other ERCOT board members: “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.”
The letter was attached to a notice (pdf) to the state’s Public Utility Commission, which appoints the 15-member board.
“We have noted recent concerns about out-of-state board leadership at ERCOT. To allow state leaders a free hand with future direction and to eliminate distractions, we are resigning from the board,” the resigning directors added.
Vanessa Anesetti-Parra, a fifth director, separately resigned. Anesetti-Parra is an executive with Just Energy of Canada.
In addition, Craig Ivey, who was nominated to the board, withdrew his nomination. Ivey, a former president of Consolidated Edison of New York, in his letter cited stakeholders’ concerns over the propriety of out-of-state ERCOT directors, and said he wanted to withdraw his petition to be approved to the board “to avoid becoming a distraction.”
The resignations were disclosed the same day ERCOT was hit with a proposed class action lawsuit in a Texas court by customers who claim they lost power and drinkable water because of its failure to ensure the grid could function properly despite the bad weather.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott responded to the resignations in a statement, saying he welcomes the move.
“When Texans were in desperate need of electricity, ERCOT failed to do its job and Texans were left shivering in their homes without power,” he said. “ERCOT leadership made assurances that Texas’s power infrastructure was prepared for the winter storm, but those assurances proved to be devastatingly false.”
He added, “The lack of preparedness and transparency at ERCOT is unacceptable, and I welcome these resignations. The State of Texas will continue to investigate ERCOT and uncover the full picture of what went wrong, and we will ensure that the disastrous events of last week are never repeated.”
Reuters contributed to this report.