Oncor To Dallas: 'We Just Simply Did Not Do The Job We Needed To'
In the wake of last month's disastrous winter storm, electricity provider Oncor had to answer tough questions from members of the Dallas City Council.
"The lack of transparency is something that I have a really hard time with," said council member Adam Bazaldua, who represents District 7. "What I was able to give my constituents really told them nothing. Someone within the communications department of Oncor needs to be held accountable."
During the blackout, Bazaldua and many council members said their phones were blowing up with calls pleading for answers. This power outage left residents desperate for information about when their power would come back on.
"One of the things we got to do is communicate a lot more," said Charles Elk, Oncor’s director for customer relations. He cites this as the company's biggest issue during the weather crisis.
Elk used the package delivery service FedEx as an analogy. While Oncor delivers electricity, it doesn't generate it. ERCOT operates the state's electrical grid.
"We don’t own the electricity we deliver, but we deliver,” said Elk.
Oncor officials said they didn't have much information from ERCOT to go on, either.
"Clearly communications has been an area that we just simply did not do the job we needed to. Part of that is we just didn't know when the generations would come back on," said Mark Carpenter, senior vice president of Transmission and Distribution Operations at Oncor.
The officials who attended the briefing apologized for the poor job they did of staying in touch with customers. They said they're working to identify how to better distribute information during a future crisis.
"It breaks my heart that some of our most vulnerable and fragile customers didn't have a way of getting information," said Debbie Dennis, Oncor's chief customer officer. "And that's why we have to work with you all to make that better."
In the meantime, Oncor officials plan to meet with each Dallas council member to discuss the impact the storm had in neighborhoods throughout the city.
The mayor and council members have also asked for an after-action report that lays out the issues that occurred, where the power rollouts happened, how often and why certain areas went dark and not others.
Got a tip? Alejandra Martinez is a Report For America corps member and writes about the impact of COVID-19 on underserved communities for KERA News. Email Alejandra at email@example.com. You can follow Alejandra on Twitter @alereports.
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