FERC, NERC open inquiry into winter load event that stressed Midwest grids
FERC and NERC routinely review load events that stress regional grids, like the 2014 Polar Vortex, to improve market rules and emergency procedures.
This review, however, could take on special significance due to FERC’s open proceeding on grid resilience and the looming specter of a coal and nuclear plant bailout from the Trump White House.
A central argument from coal and nuclear interests to keep plants online is that they respond better in times of grid stress — like extreme cold — than natural gas generators, which can see fuel supplies interrupted.
Grid experts counter that in many events, like the 2014 vortex, generators of all types experience forced outages, but that has not stopped the Department of Energy from taking up the line from the coal and nuclear lobbies about how onsite fuel supplies make their plants more secure.
The DOE is in the process of crafting a bailout package following a directive from President Trump in June.
Energy interests on both sides of the debate are likely to seize on the results of the FERC-NERC inquiry to bolster their cases. In February, MISO released a review of the emergency load event, showing that while gas plants experienced the most forced outages on Jan. 17, resources of all types were unavailable that day.
MISO on that day declared a Maximum Generation Event, which involves voluntary conservation calls and emergency power purchases.
MISO has no emergency demand response in its south region, where the grid became stressed, but voluntary conservation saved more than 700 MW of demand at its peak on Jan. 17, and nearly a gigawatt the next day.
But low temperatures and high forced outage rates meant that conservation alone was not enough to keep the grid balanced. To do that, MISO initiated emergency pricing for generators and imported thousands of megawatts of power into its south region on the morning of Jan. 17.