Texas power grid CEO fired after deadly February power outages

The CEO of Texas’ electric grid operator was fired from his post Wednesday night amid numerous calls for his resignation following the deadly power outages last month.

The board of directors at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas voted to remove Bill Magness from his post, delivering a “60 days’ termination notice” to the embattled executive.

His termination is the latest in a series of departures at the regulatory agency after winter storms last month crippled the state’s power supply chain and left more than 4 million people without power, some for days. 

Magness will continue to serve as president and CEO during the transition period and “work with state leaders and regulators on potential reforms to ERCOT,” the board said in a statement. 

Bill Magness, President and CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) testifies about the power outage during the winter storm at the Senate Committee on Business and Commerce in the Senate Gallery at the Capitol on Thursday February 25, 2021. (Photo: Jay Janner / American-Statesman)

Leaders at both ERCOT and the state’s utility commission have come under fire for their handling of the power crisis. The Public Utility Commission is the regulatory agency that oversees ERCOT.

Five members of ERCOT’s board resigned in February after public criticism over their out-of-state residency, including the board chair and vice chair. Two other board members later tendered their resignations. DeAnn Walker, chairwoman of the Public Utility Commission, resigned from her post Monday.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who previously called for both Magness and Walker to resign, celebrated news of Magness’ termination.

“Good news — now they are both gone,” Patrick said in a tweet. “Next — one of my top 31 priorities — reforming ERCOT and fixing what went wrong.”

Magness made more than $876,000 in salary and other compensation in 2019, the Associated Press reported.

At the Texas Capitol last week, lawmakers investigating the outages laid into Magness for his handling of the storm. Over hours of testimony, Magness defended actions that he said kept the grid that serves most of Texas’ 30 million residents intact.

Magness has said the controlled outages were the only way to avert an even more dire blackout in Texas. 

The head of a major Texas energy corporation appeared before lawmakers and apologized for a blackout during a deadly winter freeze. "We could not solve the riddle of a winter storm. And for that, I'm very sorry." (Feb. 25)

AP Domestic

“If we hadn’t taken action, it wouldn’t have been we would have waited a few days and see what happens,” Magness previously said. “It was seconds and minutes, given the amount of generation that was coming off the system at the same time demand was still going up.”

More on Texas power outages:

Congressional panel opens investigation into ERCOT’s preparedness for winter storm

Texas electricity provider files Chapter 11 bankruptcy after devastating winter storm, power blackout

Fact check: ERCOT, not Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, requested bypass of environmental limits

Contributing: John C. Moritz, USA TODAY Network; Associated Press

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