It took them six months, but the federal regulators responsible for electricity reliability have some recommendations for avoiding a repeat of the blackouts and natural gas supply cuts that plagued the Southwestern US in the first week of February 2011.
In reviewing the field, a task force convened by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation found that there are no existing regulatory standards for winterizing plants. Holding back on a full-scale recommendation, the task force recommends study at the state level on whether requirements for power companies to winterize their facilities are necessary. Most of the blackouts were caused by weather-related mechanical problems like frozen equipment.
While winter blackouts are not unheard of, demand spikes during the summer to meet air conditioning demand more regularly cause blackouts. Utilities prepare assiduously for the summer, check out Rollin Blackouts for their best practices and Looking To Past, Future For Heat Beating Methods for some of their more unusual approaches.
Spiking demand during the unusually cold weather led to the natural gas shortages, the task force found, but more storage for the fuel in Arizona and New Mexico would have helped.
Most of the conclusions of the task force’s six months of work are unsurprising, but utilities in the Southwestern US and Texas may have a daunting task ahead of them to prove to federal and state regulators they are ready for the upcoming winter.