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Millions of Texans were left without power and several deaths occurred due to lingering below-zero temperatures and winter storm Uri. Emergency conditions by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) have now ended, but the company’s storm continues. Officials are claiming negligence and demanding investigations and resignations by its CEO and Board.

Behind the Outages

Texas’s situation was the result of what’s been described by many as a “catastrophe just waiting to happen.”

Lack of Upgrades, Energy Demand, Insufficient Winterization

Texas’s power grid is long overdue for upgrades, and the state experienced some of its lowest temperatures in over 30 years from February 14th on.1

This caused the demand for energy to suddenly and rapidly spike. Added to this was the winterization efforts implemented for power plants; they were simply not enough for the record low temperatures.

Primary Energy Sources Offline, ERCOT Unable to Estimate Outage End

At the same time, the gas, wind, and coal—and, to a lesser extent, nuclear, solar, hydro, and biomass-fired2—that represent Texas’s primary energy sources were all negatively affected by the unusually low temperatures This forced ERCOT, which provides more than 90% of electricity to the state, to implement rolling blackouts.3

The non-profit company claimed that these blackouts would only last for between 10 and 45 minutes. Little did Texans know that the power grid manager would instruct utilities to increase shutoffs instead of begin promised restorations. ERCOT officials finally admitted on February 16 that they couldn’t estimate when the outages would come to an end.4

Why All Eyes Are on ERCOT

ERCOT is getting the attention of lawmakers, officials, and concerned citizens over its handling of the outages. Many are predicting there will be a number of court dates coming from all sides in the company’s near future.

This isn’t the grid operator’s first rodeo; despite being granted sovereign immunity that would protect it from lawsuits, ERCOT was sued for the improper manipulation of future power needs projections by Dallas company Panda Power in summer 2020. The case is now before the Supreme Court.

Now, consumers are understandably enraged over a 10,000 percent increase in wholesale electricity rates from under $50 per megawatt hour to over $9,000 per megawatt hour during the polar vortex.5 Some Texas leaders are alleging that ERCOT failed to invest sufficiently in weatherproofing infrastructure, despite being aware of the need to do so.

Yet another reason to litigate, say officials, is that ERCOT knew the storm was on its way, but failed to prepare in advance for possible demand spikes and outages.

As well, a February 16th tweet by the Texas Tribune revealed that five of ERCOT’s board of directors live out of state and in one case, out of country.6 This led lawmakers to demand both more transparency, and the addressing of residency requirements in the current legislative session.

Multiple wrongful death lawsuits are also predicted to be forthcoming due to incidents that include carbon monoxide poisonings, house fires, and shelter closings.

Holding ERCOT Accountable for Failing Texas Residents

Individuals, families, and businesses in the state of Texas have suffered enormous and devastating losses at the hands of ERCOT, a company whose job it was to provide reliability. If you were a victim of their negligence, you don’t have to fight alone.

Over 100 years of combined trial experience is behind the many cases won by the attorneys at Schechter, Schaffer & Harris. We are a top Texas law firm that is ready to help you get the compensation you deserve; just call 713-364-0723 to claim your free case evaluation.

 

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-56058372
  2. https://www.statesman.com/story/news/2021/02/17/texas-energy-wind-power-outage-natural-gas-renewable-green-new-deal/6780546002/
  3. https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/16/texas-power-outage-ercot/
  4. https://tcaptx.com/industry-news/blog-texas-supreme-court-to-consider-ercot-sovereign-immunity
  5. https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/texas-winter-storm-blackout-7192677/
  6. https://twitter.com/rgratcliffe/status/1361690873940090882?s=21

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Jonathan S. Harris and Matthew D. Shaffer are Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  Other attorneys are not board certified.  Principal office is located in Houston, Texas.