Prime executives within the Texas energy grid step down after a storm failure

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Winter weather caused power outages in Houston

HOUSTON (Reuters) – The Texas power grid operator’s top directors, who were sharply criticized for a massive state power grid failure that left millions without light, heat and water last week, resigned on Tuesday.

The chairman, vice chairman, two directors and a board nominee of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), all of whom live outside of Texas, have resigned effective Wednesday, according to a notice to the State Public Utility Commission.

The resignations were announced the same day that ERCOT was hit by class action lawsuits in a Texas court by customers claiming they lost electricity and drinking water because the grid failed to function properly despite the inclement weather.

There have been dozens of deaths related to the severe cold and the state has opened investigations that resulted in the shutdown of power generators and electrical transmission systems. Municipal electricity suppliers and marketers are struggling to bear the costs. The retail electricity marketer Just Energy issued a going concern warning due to price increases.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott welcomed the resignations, noting that ERCOT has given assurances that it has sufficient power before the storm. The state’s investigation will “reveal the full picture of what went wrong” and ensure it is not repeated, he said in a statement.

“FREE HAND”

Adrian Shelley, office director of the consumer protection group Public Citizen in Texas, said the changes at ERCOT had to go further.

“Ultimately, the legislator is responsible for not creating a system in which more reliable energy was available,” he said. “The failures that have happened have been free market failures. Maybe we need regulation to put some guard rails on it.”

The four directors said they resigned “to give heads of state a free hand in future direction and remove distractions,” according to a joint letter from Chair Sally Talberg, Vice Chair Peter Cramton, and Directors Terry Bulger and Raymond Hepper.

“Our hearts go out to all Texans who have had to go without electricity, heat and water in freezing temperatures and who continue to face the tragic consequences of this emergency,” they added.

Craig Ivey, former president of Consolidated Edison (NYSE 🙂 Co from New York, who was nominated for a position on the executive board with effect from February 16, was announced to step down before he could take a seat. Ivey cited concerns about non-government directors in his letter.

A Texas Public Utility Commission spokesman declined to comment immediately on the resignations or when the regulator would attempt to appoint new members. The PUC appoints the ERCOT board of 15 members.

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