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Feds blame ERCOT's lack of outside power sources for massive February outages

Fred Cantú, MSN

Sep 23, 2021

Feds blame ERCOT's lack of outside power sources for massive February outages

Texas was not alone freezing in the dark back in February. Thursday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) held a preliminary hearing on the power crisis that hit the southern US during an extended cold snap. They counted 4,124 outages or generators failing to start due to things like what they called “freezing issues and fuel issues.” In fact, together freezing issues and fuel issues accounted for 75 percent of the unplanned generator outages.

And of the 1,823 unplanned outages caused by freezing issues, 1,244 or a full 2/3 of them belonged to ERCOT, the Energy Reliability Council of Texas

Louisiana, Arkansas, and states up in the Midwest were experiencing the same kinds of problems but they were able to import power from the east coast to keep the lights on. ERCOT does not have that capability.

RELATED: Texas utility settles over sky-high energy bills from freeze

In their preliminary findings on the widespread power issues, FERC made a number of recommendations including:

First identify and protect cold-weather critical components and systems for each generating unit.
Conduct annual cold weather preparedness training.
Ensure the balancing authority (in Texas that’s ERCOT) is aware of the operating limitations in the generating fleet so that they can plan mitigation actions.
ERCOT only operates within Texas and isn’t bound by rules interstate power suppliers have to follow. Still, FERC did recommend ERCOT explore interconnections with grids in the Eastern US, Western US, and Mexico.

“The problem with what happened in Texas in my opinion is much bigger than better weatherization standards for generators,” said Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioner Christie after hearing the preliminary report on the February outages. He added, “I think it really goes to how you achieve resource adequacy. And I have thought for years that depending on the energy on the market for resource adequacy is an accident waiting to happen. And it happened in February.”

We asked ERCOT for an interview to respond to the preliminary report. They offered a written statement:

"Changes are obviously needed to protect Texans from future winter weather events like Uri, and ERCOT is working closely with the PUC to aggressively implement the Legislature's mandates. We fully expect the report's findings to complement the positive impact of the PUC's market redesign work sessions and our 60-point Roadmap To Improving Grid Reliability." –ERCOT Media

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