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Rewind: Winter Storm Uri

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Blake Jones's picture
Attorney Blake Jones PLLC

Blake represents developers, investors, and operators in all parts of the renewable generation, thermal generation, and natural gas value chains.  His recent experience includes project...

  • Member since 2021
  • 2 items added with 264 views
  • Nov 19, 2021
  • 264 views

This week, FERC and NERC published their Final Report on the the February 2021 cold weather event in Texas and the South Central United States.  The full report and supporting documents can be found here.  This final reports highlights:

  • 81 percent of freeze-related generating unit outages occurred at temperatures above the units’ stated ambient design temperature.
  • 87 percent of unplanned generation outages due to fuel issues were related to natural gas, predominantly related to production and processing issues, while 13 percent involved issues with other fuels such as coal or fuel oil.
  • Natural gas fuel supply issues were caused by natural gas production declines, with 43.3 percent of natural gas production declines caused by freezing temperatures and weather, and 21.5 percent caused by midstream, wellhead or gathering facility power losses, which could be attributed either to rolling blackouts or weather-related outages such as downed power lines.

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As someone who (i) played a key role in the development, financing, and construction of over 2 GW of generation in ERCOT, (ii) advised Panda Power Funds in its litigation against ERCOT, and (iii) lives in Dallas, Texas, I was intently focused Winter Storm Uri's effect on the ERCOT power system.  FERC and NERC's Final Report had me reflect on the Op-Ed I wrote in March 2021.  The primary theme stood: "no one imagined a weeklong extreme cold spell, despite Hollywood blockbusters imagining extreme weather events and much, much worse." 

As the infrastructure bill heads through reconciliation, it is my hope that this legislative support will not only incentivize a cleaner grid but a more reliable and resilient grid.  We stand at a precipice.  Often, I hear professionals conflate reliability with resiliency.  It is important we recognize the difference between reliability and resiliency while we continue building out a cleaner grid.  The infrastructure bill will foster investments in clean energy infrastructure, reliability, and resiliency, but we should not discount the power of our imagination.  

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Nov 19, 2021

81 percent of freeze-related generating unit outages occurred at temperatures above the units’ stated ambient design temperature

This one really strikes me. Is this a matter of the testing done being incomplete or erroneous? Or is it in some sort of band of variability where this 'could' have happened but was unlikely? I'm wondering if the manufacturers/testers of this equipment hold any liability? 

Blake Jones's picture
Blake Jones on Nov 19, 2021

The key point here is that we need to think a little bit about (i) what happens if it gets really cold and (ii) what happens if there are widespread outages.  Seems like we should be prepared for changing weather and have a "what if" plan.  I do suspect the manufacturers were not thrilled about that statistic - it seems to point a finger.  It is possible that the power island would have functioned but for the gas lateral or some other part of the system freezing.  

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