FERC, NERC Outline Proposed New Reliability Standards Following the February Winter Storm
Last Thursday, the FERC/NERC joint inquiry presented their preliminary report and recommendations at FERC’s monthly open meeting. The report identified two main causes of the widespread outages: freezing or icing of electric generation components, and natural gas fuel supply issues—in particular, the effects of the freezing weather on gas production. The presentation also highlighted the interdependency between natural gas and electric reliability and the need for greater coordination of industry and regulatory efforts to lessen the impact of extreme weather events.
The joint inquiry found that the storm: (i) resulted in the third largest outage (measured in megawatts of load) in U.S. history, after the August 2003 Northeast blackout and the August 1996 West Coast blackout; (ii) was the single largest recorded controlled firm load shed event; and (iii) caused the largest monthly decline of U.S. natural gas production on record.
The preliminary report made nine key recommendations, including changes to the mandatory reliability standards recently approved by FERC. FERC staff stated they view these proposals as “complementary” to the standards approved a month ago.
The standards approved in August require generators to have a winterization plan and to share certain information with the balancing authority, such as ERCOT or SPP. The reliability standards that will follow from the joint inquiry (if approved) will require specific winterization preparation, including:
Require generators to identify and protect “cold weather critical components;”
Build new or retrofit existing units to operate in extreme weather temperatures;
Account for wind and precipitation in winterization plans;
Implement corrective action plans for generators that experience freeze-related outages;