Texas could experience significant power outages again this winter if the extreme weather hits the state, according to a new report released Thursday by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), the unit that enforces rules on electrical reliability for the federal government.
NERC’s 2021-2022 Winter Reliability Assessment Report said the risk of widespread outages in Texas is statistically very small this winter. But if the state suffered another historic storm similar to the one that struck in February 2021, NERC’s modeling shows that power reserve margins could fall below the required amount by as much as 37%. At a conference call with journalists on Thursday, NERC officials said such extreme scenarios could cause widespread disruptions.
“To see what could happen during extreme cases in ERCOT, I think is very disappointing and something that we need to see how we can rectify,” said John Moura, NERC’s director of reliability assessment.
But NERC officials stressed that the number of outages during a major storm could be significantly reduced if Texas power companies heeded NERC warnings to better protect power plant equipment from the cold.
Many companies already do.
Last month, Vistra Corporation invited journalists to its Midlothian power plant to show how the company spends millions across its fleet, adding more equipment, including heat-tracking systems designed to prevent critical components in the plants from freezing.
Under new rules implemented by the Public Utility Commission of Texas, power plants are also now required to prevent equipment frozen in February from freezing again.
But during Thursday’s winter preparedness presentation, NERC officials said they see signs that some operators are still not ready.
“We are somewhat discouraged to see that a number of generators had not implemented weather formation plans,” said Mark Olson, NERC Manager, Reliability Assessment.
ERCOT, which operates the grid in Texas, has said it plans to inspect 300 power plants over 21 days in December.
From new records revealing the causes of the massive power outages in February to new interviews revealing potential solutions, NBC 5 investigates gets to the bottom of the state’s power problems in the ongoing streaming series “Powerless,” available here.
In a recent interview with NBC 5 investigatesBrad Jones, ERCOT’s interim president and CEO, said he thinks when his inspection team visits these factories, most will be ready to perform much better than last winter.
“So we will be able to look directly at the units that had problems during that storm and make sure that they not only comply with the rules of the Public Utility Commission, but also make sure that they have solved everything that was a problem during the last storm, “Jones said.
On Wednesday, NBC5 Investigates reported that Jones is still concerned about the readiness of the state’s natural system. A federal investigation into the disaster in February determined that shortages of natural gas were the second leading cause of power plant outages.
The Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates natural gas, is considering a proposal that would allow gas companies to tick a box on a one-page form and pay a $ 150 fee to opt out of future winterization rules. Jones said he hopes the rail commission will change this proposal and not give gas companies a “light out.”
It told officials from the Railway Commission NBC 5 investigates the plan is not intended to provide an easy exit and that the agency continues to focus on ensuring that the gas system can supply enough fuel to power plants in a crisis. The agency has also said it is sending inspectors to hundreds of gas plants to make sure they are ready for the coming winter.
NERC regulators stressed concerns about the gas system on Thursday, noting that although power plants are better prepared for this winter, fuel constraints could lead to further outages in extreme weather.
Other reports from NBC 5 are investigating
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