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There are many reasons why the Nova scheduler would put an instance into an error state. Most common, in my opinion, would be that there is no valid host to schedule it to, but your mileage may vary. The best way to determine why an instance is in the error state is to run "nova show <uuid>". This should give you the error that was encountered. Similarly, the nova-scheduler log will clearly state why it could not proceed as expected.

As for "nova agent-list" being empty, what you really want to be running is "nova service-list." This will give you the current status of the various nova services within the cluster.

Hope this helps, Craig