Federal Energy Regulatory Commission releases final report on 2021 February Texas freeze, issues recommendations

Texas Politics

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has released its final report analyzing what went wrong during the February freeze.

FERC’s analysis of the crisis lays out 28 recommendations to fix the grid. Some of those have already been mandated by the Texas legislature, but others fall short of what FERC is recommending.

“This is like when there’s a plane crash, and the National Transportation Safety Board interviews everybody and puts together a big report and says, ‘this is why the plane crashed,’” said energy analyst Doug Lewin.

Michael Webber, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin and energy expert, pointed out the importance of this independent report to get to the bottom of which domino fell first.

“Natural gas failed first, which helped make power failures even worse because there were fuel supply cut-offs, and then some power plants also failed,” Webber said. “That sequence is important because we’ve been told by the natural gas industry that the reason why natural gas production dropped is because of power outages. In fact, it’s the other way around.”

Although lawmakers passed legislation requiring power generators to weatherize, there are currently no state mandates for gas producers to do the same, which fuel those power plants.

“The good news is that the 2021 legislature took some action, the 2011 legislature did not…the bad news is it really falls short of what we need,” Webber said.

“It doesn’t make sense to have natural gas power plants that are winterized that can’t get fuel, and the legislature did not require the natural gas system to winterize,” Webber said.

To make matters worse, the federal government doesn’t have any power over mandating natural gas producers to do so, either.

“That’s where our jurisdiction is limited,” said NERC Compliance Assurance senior manager Kiel Lyons.

FERC’s report presses state agencies and lawmakers to explore how they could enforce these recommendations for gas producers by winter of next year.

Other recommendations include compensation for generators and producers who weatherize, and also exploring how the state could connect to the other two major power grids in the country. Should the state decide to tap into its neighbors’ grids, that’s a process that could take more than 20 years to build.

The report also makes clear that if generators were properly weatherized, 67 percent of outages could have been prevented.

“A lot of the outages were avoidable. They were preventable if we made different decisions over the last decade, if we had different regulations around reliability, if we made different investments on winterization,” Webber said.

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