Sep 24, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Preventing the next Texas power crisis

Data: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

A new report on the widespread power outages in Texas in February calls for tougher standards to ensure reliability in freezing weather — and puts numbers behind the breadth of the deadly catastrophe.

Why it matters: A deep freeze in February across the country's midsection led to failures in multiple parts of the Texas power system, leading to over 200 deaths and highlighting major vulnerabilities there.

The big picture: A preliminary assessment from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission shows the scope of the disaster. It was largely in Texas, where millions of customers lost power, though other states also had problems.

  • Well over half the power units affected were gas-fired, the report authored with the nonprofit North American Electric Reliability Corporation shows.
  • Freezing equipment at power plants and curtailed gas supply — due to component freezes and lost power at wells and processing sites — were the biggest problems.

What's next: It lays out a suite of recommendations, including stronger standards for cold weather protection.

  • FERC Chairman Richard Glick, in a statement, called the crisis a "wake-up" call and noted that recommendations for improvements after a 2011 extreme cold event in Texas went unheeded.
  • The new report must not just gather dust, he said.

Threat level: New research finds that global warming may be altering the shape and stability of the polar vortex — the swirl of winds high above the Arctic. This can send bouts of frigid air well south into the mid-latitudes, including Texas. The Washington Post has more.

Go deeper: Feds say tougher rules needed to protect Texas power plants (AP)

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