Who is Bill Magness? Texas power grid CEO fired after 6 ERCOT board members step down over winter storm outages

Magness was fired after at least six ERCOT board members stepped down from their positions after the deadly blackouts left thousands in freezing temperatures


                            Who is Bill Magness? Texas power grid CEO fired after 6 ERCOT board members step down over winter storm outages
Texas power grid ERCOT CEO Bill Magness was fired after the outages (Texas A&M Smart Grid Center)

The board of directors at Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) released a statement on Wednesday night, March 3, stating that the president and CEO Bill Magness had been issued a 60-day termination notice which they approved after a meeting. ERCOT, responsible for managing the state power grids, had come under fire following the extensive power outages during the deadly winter storms in Texas. Magness was fired after at least six ERCOT board members stepped down from their positions including ERCOT chair Sally Talberg, as reported on February 23.

Thousands of Texas residents were left in the dark and freezing temperatures for days after their power generators failed to function. The backlash from residents resulted in a number of ERCOT members stepping down from their positions amid the Texas House and Senate launching hearings into how equipped ERCOT was before the winter storms. 

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Who is Bill Magness?

Bill Magness served as ERCOT's Senior Vice President and General Counsel when he first joined in 2010. After six years of service, ERCOT appointed him as the president and CEO in 2016. According to his official bio, Magness has been in the utility business for 25 years where he worked with numerous electric and telecommunications companies nationwide. Magness's LinkedIn profile states that before ERCOT, Magness was a partner at Casey, Gentz & Magness, LLP, a company providing legal advice with a focus on state electric and telecommunications law issues.

His other work experience included serving as Chief of Office of Customer Protection at the Public Utility of Commission. His job responsibility was forming a customer protection division, conducting telecommunications arbitration proceedings and assisting in legislative liaison activities. Additionally, Magness had also served as assistant Public Counsel at the Office of Public Utility Counsel, assistant US Attorney at the US Attorney's Office and an associate at Palmer & Dodge LLP.

Pedestrians walk on an icy road on February 15, 2021, in East Austin, Texas. Winter storm Uri has brought historic cold weather to Texas, causing traffic delays and power outages, and storms have swept across 26 states with a mix of freezing temperatures and precipitation (Getty Images)

According to a report, Magness made more than $876,000 in salary and other compensation in 2019. He received the majority of the backlash over the blackouts that started on February 15, 2021, when Texas froze over and people were demanding for electricity to heat their houses. Grid operators unplugged the power, leaving more than 4M customers in complete blackout as the system buckled. Magness said this was a necessary move through which they averted an even more catastrophic blackout that could have lasted months.

How long will Bill Magness work at ERCOT after termination?

The board statement confirmed that Magness will continue to serve in his current position. He will be using the 60-day period to help state leaders implement potential reforms to ERCOT. The board also announced that the search for a replacement has actively begun and more discussion on the transition plan is expected at future meetings, according to a report.

In a statement, ERCOT stated, “The ERCOT Board of Directors met this evening and directed the Corporate Secretary to exercise the 60 days’ termination notice to ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness pursuant to the employment agreement with ERCOT. During this transition period, Bill will continue to serve as President and CEO and work with state leaders and regulators on potential reforms to ERCOT. The ERCOT Board is expected to begin an immediate search for a new President and CEO, and will continue to discuss the transition plan at future meetings during this time period.”

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