Spurred by last week’s power grid failure in Texas, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Monday announced that it will open a new proceeding to examine the threat that climate change and extreme weather events pose to electric reliability. The proceeding, FERC said, will investigate how grid operators prepare for and respond to these events, including droughts, extreme cold, wildfires, hurricanes, and prolonged heat waves.
“The effects of climate change are already apparent,” said FERC Chairman Richard Glick, “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.”
To proceed or not to proceed: Just days earlier, on February 18, FERC issued an order terminating a three-year-old proceeding on grid reliability. The commission initiated that proceeding in January 2018 to “holistically” examine the resilience of the bulk power system after unanimously voting against a proposed rulemaking on the subject from the Department of Energy. (The DOE’s controversial 2017 proposal had called for FERC to impose rules on commission-approved regional transmission organizations and independent system operators to ensure that generators with 90-day fuel supplies on-site—meaning, essentially, nuclear and coal plants—are compensated for their resilience and reliability attributes.)
In last week’s order terminating the 2018 proceeding, FERC said that based on its review over the past three years, it did not believe any “generic action” was appropriate. “That is not to suggest that resilience concerns are no longer an issue or that RTOs and ISOs have addressed all threats to the resilience of the bulk power system,” FERC stated. “To the contrary, the resilience and reliability of the bulk power system must—and will—remain one of the commission’s paramount responsibilities and concerns.”
Commission comity: While he was the lone dissenter in the vote to close the 2018 proceeding, FERC’s Neil Chatterjee expressed his support of the new proceeding in a tweet, writing, “I’m glad @FERC is reopening the #resilience docket, albeit under a new name, to comprehensively explore the nationwide threat climate change and extreme weather events pose to the bulk electric system.”