The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corp have devised and issued a set of new grid reliability standards to avoid a repeat of the Texas Freeze that left millions without power and heating amid a cold spell and saddled thousands with massive electricity bills.
“I cannot, and will not allow this to become yet another report that serves no purpose other than to gather dust on the shelf,” said Rich Glick, chairman of the FERC, as quoted by Reuters.
Among the new requirements is one that should see utilities identify and take steps to protect cold-weather critical components of the grid, build new units, or retrofit existing ones to be able to withstand extreme weather, and prepare plans for handling freeze-related outages.
The Texas Freeze, which was the result of a Polar vortex that froze swathes of the U.S. but hit the Lone Star State the hardest, caused power outages because power plants simply froze as their operators had not weatherized them. It also caused a shortage of electricity because many gas wells that supply the commodity to the plants also froze. The cold spell resulted in the biggest drop in U.S. oil production, too, at 40 percent of the nation’s total.
As a result of all these outages and shortages, at one point as many as 2 million Texans were without power, gas prices hit record highs on the wholesale market, and ERCOT resorted to rolling blackouts.
The new standards by the FERC and NERC are supposed to help prevent this from happening again. FERC does not have jurisdiction over ERCOT—the Texas grid operator—but NERC does have jurisdiction when it comes to reliability matters.
Texas is working to prevent another Freeze, too, which many blamed on the fact that the Texas grid is isolated from the national grid, which made it extra vulnerable to the effects of extreme weather.