Pressure on the Power Grid: Federal Investigation

A new report from Federal Regulators highlights problems with the Texas electrical grid. The 357 page document is the result of a 6-month study of the events that led to the power crisis during the February Freeze.

The document is from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation. Staff from both agencies dug into the cause and effect of the crisis. It also offers recommendations about how to avoid similar problems in the future.

The scope of the inquiry was large. The report details the data investigators examined:

For the electric industry, the task force issued 122 data requests to generator operators, transmission operators, balancing authorities, and a reliability coordinator. The task force also utilized event analysis information which NERC and the affected Regional Entities received from 79 registered entities… 

Cold weather was to blame for many of the failures, according to the report:

The majority of the problems experienced by the many generators that tripped, suffered derates, or failed to start during the event were attributable, either directly or indirectly, to the cold weather itself.

Generators and natural gas producers suffered severe losses of capacity despite having received accurate forecasts of the storm. Entities in both categories report having winterization procedures in place. However, the poor performance of many of these generating units and wells suggests that these procedures were either inadequate or were not adequately followed.

The report makes many suggestions as to what could be done better.

Generation owners and operators should ensure adequate construction, maintenance and inspection of freeze protection elements such as insulation, heat tracing and wind breaks.  

Reliability coordinators and balancing authorities should require generators to provide accurate data about the temperature limits of units so they know whether they can rely on those units during extreme weather.  

State lawmakers and regulators in Texas and New Mexico, working with industry, should determine if weather-related production shortages can be mitigated through the adoption of minimum winterization standards for natural gas production and processing facilities.

If you would like to read the report for yourself, click here. The file is nearly 10MB in size and is in .PDF format.

Paul Harrop, Newschannel 6