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FERC releases final report on February 2021 event [free access]

November 17, 2021

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), and NERC's regional entities released a final report on the impact of the February 2021 extreme cold weather event on the US bulk electric system. Titled ‘The February 2021 Cold Weather Outages in Texas and the South Central United States’, the 300-page report supports and elaborates the preliminary recommendations and findings released earlier in September 2021.


To avoid a repeat of last winter's blackouts, the final report provides further details on the need to strengthen rules for cold weather preparedness and coordination. It also highlights the need for substantially better coordination between the natural gas system and the electric system to ensure reliable supply.


The report focuses on the critical need for stronger mandatory electric reliability standards, particularly with respect to power generator’s cold weather-critical components and systems. Notably, a combination of freezing issues (44.2 per cent) and fuel issues (31.4 per cent) caused 75.6 per cent of the unplanned generating unit outages, derates and failures to start. Of particular note, protecting just four types of power plant components from icing and freezing could have reduced outages by 67 per cent in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) region, 47 per cent in the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) and 55 per cent in the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) south regions. Natural gas-fired units represented 58 per cent of all generating units experiencing unplanned outages or failures to start.


The report includes 28 formal recommendations that seek to prevent a recurrence of the failures experienced in February 2021, which include important revisions to the NERC Reliability Standards surrounding generator winterisation and gas-electric coordination.


Other recommendations include subjects such as the effects of cold weather on mechanical and electrical components, the use of weather forecasts to better predict electric demand, and increasing the ability to cycle rolling blackouts. It also recommends additional study of the ERCOT system's reliability issues among other things.