Federal Energy Regulators Approve Extreme Cold Weather Reliability Standards

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Feb. 16 approved two new extreme cold weather reliability standards aimed at implementing key recommendations from a joint inquiry into 2021’s Winter Storm Uri to prevent a recurrence of the power outages affecting millions of people in Texas and the South Central U.S.

The reliability standards, proposed by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation in October 2022, contain new and revised requirements to advance reliability of the grid during extreme cold weather temperatures.

They include implementation of generator freeze protection measures, enhanced cold weather preparedness plans, identification of freeze-sensitive equipment in generators, corrective actions for when equipment freeze issues occur, annual training for generator maintenance and operations personnel, and procedures to improve the coordination of load reduction measures during a grid emergency.

While FERC approved the new extreme cold weather reliability standards, it also identified areas for improvement, and directed NERC to modify the extreme cold weather preparedness and operations reliability standard to address concerns related to applicability, ambiguity, a lack of objective measures and deadlines, and prolonged, indefinite compliance periods.

Also, along with the approval and directives for modifications, FERC directed NERC to collect and assess data over time to monitor and assess entities’ implementation of the new requirements.

The reliability standards FERC approved implement approximately half of the standards-related recommendations from the joint inquiry into the 2021 winter storm.

The remaining recommendations will be addressed in a second phase of NERC’s standards development, which is now under way.

In February 2021, Winter Storm Uri led to the largest controlled firm load shed event in U.S. history, with over 4.5 million people losing power. 

Shortly thereafter, the Commission, along with NERC and Regional Entities, initiated a joint staff inquiry into Winter Storm Uri that resulted in the issuance of a joint report in November of 2021.

The report included recommendations for reliability standard enhancements to improve extreme cold weather operations, preparedness, and coordination.