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Texas power supply fires CEO after a fatal power outage

Bill Magnus has worked for Ercot for over a decade and became its CEO and President in 2016 (AP pic)

Austin: A Texas power grid operator toppled CEO Bill Magnus yesterday, as the fallout from a deadly blackout last month left residents without heating, electricity or water for days.

His departure came after intense criticism by state lawmakers for handling the crisis by the Texas Electricity Reliability Board (Ercot), prompting a major electricity provider to seek bankruptcy and put several other companies close to it.

The mid-February storm temporarily disrupted up to half of the state’s generating stations, resulting in blackouts that claimed dozens of lives and pushed electricity prices ten times the normal rate.

“ERCOT’s decision to dismiss CEO Bill Magnus indicates accountability for the disaster that swept our state two weeks ago,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement on Twitter.

“(This step) provides the opportunity for a new leadership that can prepare and direct our mandate’s resources more efficiently when dangerous weather strikes,” he added.

The move was also welcomed by Texas Deputy Gov. Dan Patrick, who earlier this week called on the heads of Ercott and the Public Utilities Commission to resign.

Patrick said the legislature can now begin to “fix what went wrong”.

Erkut said in a statement carried by several media outlets that its board of directors has ordered Magness to be given a 60-day termination notice.

The board will start an immediate search for a new CEO.

The Texas Tribune reported that Magnus worked for Ercott for more than a decade and became its CEO and president in 2016 after serving as its general counsel.

Bloomberg, citing people familiar with board thinking, Brad Jones, the former president of the New York Power Grid, is the leading candidate to replace Magnus as CEO of Ercot.

Magness was questioned for hours last week to let energy prices hit 450 times their usual rate after the threat to the state grid ended.

Seven of Ercot’s 15 directors resigned last week and the chair of the state’s public utility commission, which oversaw Ercot, resigned Monday.

The winter storm caused widespread blackouts across Texas, a state unaccustomed to extreme cold, resulting in power outages for more than 4 million people at its peak.

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