Powering Strong Communities

NERC, FERC Staff Offer Preliminary Conclusions from Winter Storm Elliot Inquiry

Staff from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation on June 15 made a presentation at FERC’s monthly meeting on the preliminary conclusions from their ongoing inquiry into bulk power system operations during the Winter Storm Elliott event in December 2022.

On December 28, 2022, FERC, NERC, and NERC’s Regional Entities announced that they would open a joint inquiry into the operations of the bulk-power system during Winter Storm Elliott.

Since then, the inquiry team has been gathering and analyzing relevant data to determine the effects of Elliott on the bulk-power system.

The team’s early observations reinforce themes and recommendations from prior inquiry team reports.

Consistent themes include:

  • Need for generating unit cold weather preparedness;
  • Natural gas–electric interdependencies, and
  • Need for grid operations preparedness (e.g., load forecasting, grid emergencies).

A presentation prepared for the FERC meeting said that continuing to implement the recommendations of past inquiry reports could have helped mitigate the effects of Elliott and recommendations should be implemented now to prepare for the coming winter.

“I remain concerned that critical prior inquiry report recommendations are not being implemented quickly enough, and I strongly encourage the prompt implementation of those recommendations by industry, to prepare for the upcoming 2023-2024 winter,” said FERC Chairman Willie Phillips in a statement posted on FERC’s website.

“The presentation also underscores the need for improved gas-electric coordination. Today more than ever, the reliability of the bulk power system is interconnected with the reliability of the natural gas pipeline system. NAESB will provide recommendations to FERC and NERC, so we can move ahead on acting on any changes in both the electric and natural gas industries,” he said.

He said he strongly supports “someone, even if it's not FERC, have authority over natural gas reliability standards.”

Recent FERC Actions

In February 2023, the Commission approved a suite of reliability standards addressing the use of manual load shed during emergency conditions and required transmission operators to take steps to minimize the use of manual load shed that could further exacerbate Emergency conditions and threaten system reliability. 

This addressed five recommendations proposed in the Joint Report regarding the February 2021 Cold Weather Outages in Texas and the South-Central United States that recommended new or enhanced reliability Standards.

In April 2023, the first set of “cold weather reliability standards” became mandatory and enforceable, addressing recommendations arising from FERC and NERC Staff’s report on the causes of the January 17, 2018, cold weather event affecting the south-central United States.