Extreme weather events have become more frequent and severe, bringing significant challenges to critical infrastructure systems. The United States, in particular, has witnessed several extreme weather events that caused significant damages to its power grid and natural gas infrastructure, making it necessary to revise the reliability standards to prevent power outages and supply disruptions.
Recently, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recommended revising the reliability standards for power grids and natural gas infrastructure to avoid issues during extreme weather, as part of its findings from a report on winter storm Elliott in 2022.
FERC said the report recommends completing cold weather reliability standard revisions from Winter Storm Uri in 2021 – which resulted in the largest controlled blackout in U.S. history – and making U.S. natural gas infrastructure more reliable.
“Some recommendations from the 2021 Uri report are still not implemented… It shouldn’t take five winter storms in 11 years to show us the gravity of the situation we find ourselves in,” FERC Chairman Willie Phillips said.
Winter storm Elliott in 2022 brought sub-freezing temperatures and extreme weather alerts to about two-thirds of the United States, causing unplanned electricity generation supply losses.
In response to this event, FERC conducted an inquiry into the power outages and rolling blackouts and published a report that outlines 11 recommendations for action to help prevent similar occurrences during future extreme winter weather. The report is set to be published later this year, but FERC has already shared key highlights from it.
One of the significant recommendations from the report is for FERC to revise the reliability standards for power grids and natural gas infrastructure to prevent issues during extreme weather. FERC calls for completing cold weather reliability standard revisions from Winter Storm Uri in 2021, resulting in the largest controlled blackout in U.S. history, and making U.S. natural gas infrastructure more reliable. The recommendations also include robust monitoring of the implementation of the reliability standards.
In addition to revising the reliability standards, the report recommends congressional and state legislation or regulation to establish reliability rules for natural gas infrastructure. This call for legislative support underscores the critical role that state and federal governments must play in ensuring the U.S. energy sector is resilient to future extreme weather events.
FERC’s inquiry found that cold weather caused unplanned electric generation supply losses exceeding 90,000 megawatts (MW) and led to power outages and rolling blackouts during the winter storm Elliott in December 2022. This extensive loss demonstrated the urgent need to revise the existing reliability standards to avoid similar events in the future.
FERC’s recommendation to revise the reliability standards for power grids and natural gas infrastructure is a significant step towards ensuring the U.S. energy sector can withstand extreme weather events and prevent power outages and supply disruptions. The findings from the report demonstrate the importance of having resilient critical infrastructure systems that can adapt and respond to changing weather patterns.
The call for legislative support also emphasizes the need for both federal and state governments to play an active role in establishing reliability rules for natural gas infrastructure. With these recommendations, FERC is taking a proactive approach to ensure the U.S. energy sector is prepared for future extreme weather events.