For months, clean energy advocates have pointed to the Texas power grid’s disastrous failure during last winter’s climate change-fueled storm as a call for action. Analysts agreed the breakdown was fundamentally caused by the grid’s almost uniquely poor resilience, particularly by its natural gas infrastructure.
Now U.S. and North American regulators are moving to implement mandatory electric utility reliability standards designed to avoid a recurrence of that outage, which left 4.5 million Texans without power for several days, resulting in over 100 deaths. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corps are finalizing recommendations to address the Texas grid’s resiliency gaps by November. These standards will require electric utilities to identify and protect cold-weather critical components, ensure that generating units are designed to operate at specific conditions based on extreme temperature and weather data, and develop corrective plans for units that fail.
Last winter, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and other state officials tried to divert attention from their regulatory failures by falsely blaming freezing wind turbines for the disaster. In reality, the greatest loss of electric generation capacity during the crisis came from failure of natural gas delivery infrastructure. The state had been on notice since a 2011 storm that their power-producing infrastructure needed to implement known and available measures to prevent freezing-related failure across the board. However, the state’s privatized electric grid corporation failed to make the necessary improvements. Soon they will be required to do so, in order to prevent similar future disasters.