The Importance of Properly Winterizing Electric Generation Facilities

The Importance of Properly Winterizing Electric Generation Facilities

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) released a report to stress “the need for generation owners and operators to adequately prepare for winter weather conditions to ensure bulk electric system reliability.”

Abnormally low temperatures on January 17, 2018, led “regional operators in the Midwest and South Central U.S. (MidContinent Independent System Operator and Southwest Power Pool)” to call for voluntary reductions in electricity use. The system managed to stay stable during this cold front. “However, continued reliable operation would have required shedding firm load if MISO had experienced its largest single generation contingency in MISO South.”

The report found that “despite prior guidance from FERC and NERC, cold-weather events continue to result in unplanned outages that imperil reliable system operations.” The report recommends the creation of “one or more mandatory Reliability Standards requiring generator owner/operators to prepare for the cold weather and provide information about those preparations to their Reliability Coordinators and Balancing Authorities.”

In addition to developing a Reliability Standard, the report suggested that “enhanced outreach and actions by system operators to encourage generator performance can also help to prevent a recurrence of the large-scale unplanned outages like those seen during this event, the 2014 Polar Vortex and the 2011 Southwest cold weather event.”

FERC’s report also found that it was not just a failure to winterize the generation facilities properly, there were issues with the gas supply that contributed to the event.

FERC and NERC had several recommendations and sound practices to help in future cold-weather events, including:

  • “Generator owners and operators should perform winterization activities to prepare for cold weather, and should ensure the accuracy of their units’ ambient temperature design specifications;
  • “Balancing Authorities and Reliability Coordinators should be aware of generating units’ specific limitations, such as ambient temperatures beyond which they cannot be expected to perform or the lack of firm gas transportation;
  • “Planning coordinators and transmission planners should jointly develop and study scenarios to be better prepared for seasonal extreme weather conditions; and
  • “Transmission owners and operators should conduct analyses that delineate different summer and winter ratings for both normal and extreme conditions.”

The full report can be viewed here.