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Bloomberg News: Texas Was Warned a Decade Ago Its Grid Was Unready for Cold

Posted by Jennifer A. Dlouhy and Ari Natter on Feb 17, 2021

Bloomberg News reported Texas energy facilities did not weatherize power plants following the state’s 2011 winter blackout crisis. The article quotes AEE’s Jeff Dennis on major questions facing Texas providers and regulators amidst repeat blackouts across the state.  Read excerpts below and the full story here (sub req). The article is also available at Financial Post.

Federal regulators warned Texas that its power plants couldn’t be counted on to reliably churn out electricity in bitterly cold conditions a decade ago, when the last deep freeze plunged 4 million people into the dark.

They recommended that utilities use more insulation, heat pipes and take other steps to winterize plants -- strategies commonly observed in cooler climates but not in normally balmy Texas.

“Where did those recommendations go, and how were they implemented?” said Jeff Dennis, managing director of Advanced Energy Economy, an association of clean energy businesses. “Those are going to be some pretty key questions.”

As investigators probe the current power crisis in Texas, which has left millions of people without power or a promise of when it will be restored, questions are sure to be raised about how the state responded to the urgings from the 2011 analysis, issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North America Electric Reliability Corporation, which sets reliability standards.

The February 2011 incident occurred when an Arctic cold front descended on the Southwest, sending temperatures below freezing for four days in a row. The result was disastrous. Equipment and instruments froze, forcing the shutdown of power plants and rolling blackouts, according to the report.

Moreover, some of the same equipment, the report noted, had failed during previous cold snaps. One in December 1989 prompted the state’s grid operator to resort to system-wide rolling blackouts for the first time...

Power generators have voluntary guidelines to follow and already have a financial incentive to keep plants running during cold snaps when prices spike, Dan Woodfin, Ercot senior director of system operations, told reporters Tuesday...

A state law enacted after the 2011 freeze authorized the Public Utility Commission of Texas to require power companies to disclose their weatherization efforts. But the state has not gone further in mandating the precautions…

Power companies have little incentive to make investments in winterization they may not recoup, said Adrian Shelley, Texas office director of the advocacy group Public Citizen…

The current Arctic blast -- which caused temperatures to fall two degrees below zero in Dallas on Tuesday -- is far worse than 2011. For Texas grid operators and power generators, the question going forward will be whether they take steps to deal with the next bad winter storm…

Read the full story here (sub req), also available at Financial Post.

Topics: AEE In The News