DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – In an update Wednesday evening, ERCOT, the state’s power grid operator said since Wednesday morning, it has restored power to about 1.6 million homes in Texas.

In addition, a news release said there was sufficient generation available to begin restoring 200,000 additional homes every hour.

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ERCOT Senior Director of System Operations Dan Woodfin said, “We’re at a point in the restoration where we’re going to keep energizing circuits as fast as we safely can until we run out of available generation. We hope to make significant progress overnight.”

As ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, remains focused on restoring power across the state, its CEO Bill Magness, remains on the hot seat. “What we’re seeing is the results of a catastrophic natural weather event.”

He says ERCOT has been working with electric providers nonstop.

“They have people out working on whatever the problems are. Sometimes the problems have to do with things that broke during the storm coming in. Sometimes they have to do with fuel supply. They’re working with their natural gas supply providers to get that fuel to them.”

Some conservatives have blamed extended and unprecedented outages on the state’s reliance on wind and solar energy.

But Magness said all types of generation plants in the state, whether wind, solar, nuclear, coal and natural gas shut down because of the ice, snow, and frigid temperatures. “That goes from freezing wind turbines to solar that can’t work because of the cloud cover for several days to high winds and frigid temperatures causing problems for fuel supply as well as the generation units themselves.”

As CBS 11 reported Tuesday, Bruce Bullock, Director of the Maguire Energy Institute at SMU, said ERCOT doesn’t rely on wind and solar energy as much during the winter months.

He said the power plants fueled by natural gas went offline because they had mechanical problems or they couldn’t get natural gas delivered.

Wednesday, CBS 11 asked Magness what is the right combination of resources for the state.

“I think the policy questions around what kind of mix generation resource mix we have, whether investment in different resources is wise. Certainly, one that is welcome once we get the power back,” Magness said.

Independent energy experts have questioned whether ERCOT followed the recommendations from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to better winterize the state’s power grid after a cold snap hit Texas in 2011.

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While the state’s power grid is separate and isn’t regulated by the FERC, Magness said ERCOT did take action.

“There was a tremendous amount of effort at the state level, as well as the federal to look at those winterization issues and make sure those were being done. And a lot of work went into that. Actually, we had weather in 2018 that was similar to the weather we saw in 2011 in the winter and we saw much better performance. Obviously, there were some challenges that weren’t met this time.”

Governor Greg Abbott has called this situation a total failure by ERCOT, and he and state lawmakers are demanding answers.

Some leaders are also calling for resignations.

Magness said, “There should be absolutely investigations and assessments of what happened. Right now the number one priority is to get power back on for Texans.”

ERCOT is also being criticized because some of its board of directors are from out of state.

Magness said the board members from Texas are often affiliated with companies that work with ERCOT, and that they wanted to have others who were independent. “I think traditionally that’s why we’ve had directors from Texas.

We’ve had independent directors from other states, and we just try to find qualified people who understand the issues we’re facing and can help with our governance.”

Republican State Representative Jeff Leach of Plano says he intends to file a bill that would require the Board of Directors to live in Texas.

Magness acknowledged the sentiment but said his priority is to restore power for every Texan as quickly as possible.


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