FERC, NERC release report on Winter Storm Elliott, recommend improvements

Published on November 09, 2023 by Dave Kovaleski

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The Federal Energy Regulatory Committee (FERC) and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) released a report on the devastating Christmas 2022 storm Elliott, which caused power outages for millions of Americans in the Eastern United States.

The 167-page report includes several key recommendations, including the completion of cold weather reliability standard revisions and improvements to reliability for U.S. natural gas infrastructure.

“The FERC and NERC teams analyzed what happened, what went wrong, and the steps utilities, grid operators, and stakeholders must take to avoid this in the future,” FERC Chairman Willie Phillips said. “I want everyone to take time during this Reliability Week to read this report and begin implementing these recommendations, particularly those addressing the interdependence of gas and electricity. The report highlights what I’ve called for before: Someone must have authority to establish and enforce gas reliability standards.”

As noted, the report calls for robust monitoring of how the industry is implementing cold weather reliability standards. Also, it says that NERC should obtain an independent technical review of the causes of cold-related mechanical and electrical generation outages to identify preventive measures. Further, it states that congressional and state legislation or regulation is needed to establish reliability rules for natural gas infrastructure to ensure cold weather reliability.

“Winter is upon us, and the energy sector needs to implement these recommendations as quickly as possible. As the report lays out, we narrowly dodged a crisis last year. Had the weather not warmed up on Christmas Day, it is highly likely that natural gas service would have been disrupted to New York City,” Jim Robb, NERC president and CEO, said. “I echo the chairman’s call for an authority to set and enforce winterization standards for the natural gas system upstream of power generation and local distribution. The unplanned loss of generation due to freezing and fuel issues was unprecedented, reflecting the extraordinary interconnectedness of the gas and electric systems and their combined vulnerability to extreme weather.”

In addition, the report recommends that the North American Energy Standards Board convene a meeting of gas and electric grid operators and gas distribution companies to discuss communications improvements and analyze whether additional gas infrastructure is needed to support grid reliability.

FERC and NERC will host a webinar for industry at the end of November to discuss the recommendations in more detail.

The report comes out just before FERC convenes its Annual Reliability Technical Conference on Thursday, Nov. 9. Policy issues related to the reliability and security of the bulk-power system will be discussed, as will the impact of the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule under section 111 of the Clean Air Act on electric reliability.