FERC launches climate review of Texas blackouts

Source: By Arianna Skibell, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, February 23, 2021

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has launched two new investigations into last week’s devastating Texas power outages and will explore how to protect the grid against future disruptions, the agency announced yesterday.

“The effects of climate change are already apparent,” FERC Chairman Richard Glick (D) said in a statement, “and we must do everything we can within our statutory authority to ensure that the electric grid is capable of keeping the lights on [in] the face of extreme weather.”

FERC opened a general inquiry Feb. 16 into the rolling blackouts caused by the polar vortex. But the commission yesterday announced it would also open a proceeding to gauge the threat that climate change poses to electric reliability. Another investigation announced yesterday will review whether market manipulation impaired Texas’ ability to respond to the cold snap.

The panel will host a technical conference to tackle how grid operators prepare for and respond to extreme weather events like storms, wildfires, hurricanes and prolonged heat waves. The date of the conference has yet to be announced.

FERC also said its Office of Enforcement is investigating wholesale natural gas and electricity market activity during last week’s cold snap to assess whether market participants committed any violations that interfered with Texas’ ability to respond to the crisis.

“If the Office of Enforcement finds any potential wrongdoing that can be addressed under FERC’s statutory authority, it will pursue those matters as non-public investigations,” the panel said in a press release.

The investigation is part of the FERC Division of Analytics and Surveillance’s ongoing oversight of electricity market behavior. According to FERC, the division uses data from energy transactions to screen physical and financial natural gas trading hubs across the country. The regulator also monitors organized and bilateral wholesale electricity markets.