ERCOT chief: 'We are completely back to normal operations' as of Feb. 19

ERCOT president and chief executive Bill Magness (left) was joined by the electric grid manager's senior director of system operations Dan Woodfin on Feb. 19 for a briefing on the company's emergency operations. (Screenshot via ERCOT livestream)
ERCOT president and chief executive Bill Magness (left) was joined by the electric grid manager's senior director of system operations Dan Woodfin on Feb. 19 for a briefing on the company's emergency operations. (Screenshot via ERCOT livestream)

ERCOT president and chief executive Bill Magness (left) was joined by the electric grid manager's senior director of system operations Dan Woodfin on Feb. 19 for a briefing on the company's emergency operations. (Screenshot via ERCOT livestream)

In a call with members of the media early Feb. 19, officials with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas announced that the state electric grid manager had returned to normal operations after days of widespread outages caused by severe winter conditions this week.

“We just got the notice from our control room that we have left the last stage of emergency operations. So we are completely back to normal operations as of now," said Bill Magness, ERCOT president and chief executive officer, shortly after 10:35 a.m. Feb. 19.

The announcement came less than one day after Gov. Greg Abbott said power had been restored to most Texas homes affected by ongoing electric supply shortages. However, thousands of Texans still remain without power due to more localized equipment failures related to the week's winter storms.

"As folks are getting their power restored at a very regular clip now, there may still be some outages that have to do with fallen trees or broken equipment that are out there in the electric company systems and they’re out there managing those as well. But any outages that were associated with the rotating outages that ERCOT had to order should be getting back very soon," Magness said.

Magness also took time during the briefing to recount why he believes ERCOT—which manages the flow of power throughout most of Texas, but does not own its own generation or transmission infrastructure—had no choice but to order statewide outages beginning early Feb. 15 as the winter storm rolled across the state. Magness said around 40% of the state's expected generation was lost throughout the system at that time, and that the outages allowed ERCOT to keep the state's grid from further collapsing.


"I know it’s hard to imagine a much worse event right now, but ... if we had not taken that action, I’m pretty sure that we wouldn't be sitting here today talking about ending outages," he said. "We’d be talking about when we might estimate weeks or months from now that we’d see the power system repaired, and we’d still see people suffering from outages just as they would have, just as they did, under the outages that we directed. So doing nothing was not really an option."

Magness and Dan Woodfin, ERCOT's senior director of system operations, also said the winterization of power generators—an emergency legislative item Abbott called for Feb. 18—had previously been addressed by some power providers following a winter storm in 2011 that prompted a federal review of widespread regional outages initiated at that time.

"In theory, all of them are weatherized to some extent, and so that’s the question now, how well they were weatherized," Woodfin said. "I think that’s one of the things that we’re going to have to look more at, is did they trip because of lack of weatherization? And we’ll get that through this request for information to find out what was going on."

The urgent preparation for winter conditions had been a top recommendation given to regional power entities in a report published by federal energy regulators months after the 2011 weather event.

Magness also declined to directly respond to accusations levied by state officials including Abbott that ERCOT had failed during the power crisis this week, and said the council will participate in upcoming state and federal reviews of its actions and possible improvements for managing the Texas grid.

However, he said the actions taken by ERCOT staff early this week beginning system outages was necessary.

"There are always things we can do better, but the decisions that the operators made about 1:25 on Sunday night, Monday morning, to protect the system given the dire conditions they were seeing, that’s a decision I’ll defend," he said. "If the failure is in that, I guess we’d have to disagree. But I think if the failure was in other areas, certainly, we’ll talk about anything that we did that we can improve.”
By Ben Thompson
Ben joined Community Impact Newspaper in January 2019 and is a reporter for The Woodlands edition.


MOST RECENT

Houston City Hall in rainbow lighting
Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce celebrates five years of service

The organization is open to all and serves members throughout the Greater Houston area.

Montgomery County is set to receive its largest first-dose allocation during the week of March 1. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Montgomery County set to receive largest vaccine allocation yet in first week of March

Nearly 20,000 vaccine doses were allocated to the county's two vaccine hubs and several additional providers for the week of March 1.

A coronavirus vaccine is given at Memorial Hermann's mass vaccine clinic Feb. 26. (Andrew Christman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Memorial Hermann closes out 2nd round of vaccines with 7,000 distributed among 2 clinics

The clinic will continue operations through 5:30 p.m. Feb. 27.

The new Fort Bend Epicenter multipurpose facility could be used as a spot for trade shows and sporting events, could act as a large-scale shelter for county residents in an emergency and more. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Large multipurpose complex coming to Fort Bend County; Sugar Land to widen University Blvd. and more top Houston-area news

Read the top business and community news from the past week from the Houston area.

Snow covers I-45 in Houston during a winter storm that hit Texas the night of Feb. 14. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
Legislators probe energy officials over power failures, lack of preparation heading into winter storm

The Texas Legislature held hearings Feb. 25 with energy companies including Oncor Electric Delivery and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas in response to last week’s historic winter storm, which left millions of Texans without electricity for days.

The Woodlands Township board of directors met Feb. 24 to discuss items including winter storm recovery and a financial report. (Screenshot via The Woodlands Township)
The Woodlands officials criticize county officials over CARES Act funds management; commissioner fires back

The Woodlands Township board of directors criticized Montgomery County's methods of allocating federal coronavirus aid at the board's Feb. 24 meeting, calling the $244,000 the township received a "slap in the face."

Keith Luechtefeld spoke with Community Impact Newspaper about some of the short-term and long-term repercussions of the storm as well as some of the reasons why so many homes saw burst pipes during the freezing weather. (Community Impact staff)
Q&A: Greater Houston Builders Association President Keith Luechtefeld discusses power, plumbing, frozen pipes after Winter Storm Uri

Keith Luechtefeld spoke with Community Impact Newspaper about some of the short-term and long-term repercussions of the storm as well as some of the reasons why so many homes saw burst pipes during the freezing weather.

Harris County ESD No. 11 commissioners met for a meeting Feb. 25. (Courtesy Cypress Creek EMS)
Harris County ESD No. 11 begins construction process on new facility

District offiicials have said they hope Phase 1 of construction will be complete by August.

Winter Storm Uri led to closures across the Greater Houston area during the third week of February. (Courtesy Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County)
‘It’s been a rough year for us’: Expert explains economic effects of winter storm, ongoing pandemic in Houston region

“It's been a rough year for us economically; it's been a rough year for us public health wise. It's just been a rough year for us psychologically—first the coronavirus and then the freeze," said Patrick Jankowski, senior vice president of research with the Greater Houston Partnership.

Gracie Barra The Woodlands relocated to a new training center on Richards Road earlier this year. (Courtesy Gracie Barra The Woodlands)
New cosmetic services, MMA gym: 5 recent business updates in The Woodlands and northern Spring

Several businesses have recently opened in or relocated into The Woodlands area.

In addition to produce, Theiss Farms offers grass-fed beef. The family’s herd of cattle grazes in a pasture near the intersection of Spring Cypress and Stuebner Airline roads. (Hannah Zedaker/Community Impact Newspaper)
Theiss Farms Market owner on winter storm: 'I knew everything was going to die, and it did'

Nothing could have prepared local farmers for last week's winter storm, Theiss Farms Market co-owner Dwayne Theiss said.