US Wants NatGas/Power Coordination to Prevent Another Feb Freeze

(Reuters) — U.S. power reliability regulators recommended electric grids strengthen cold weather rules and coordinate with the natural gas industry to prevent a recurrence of the February freeze that left millions in Texas without power for days.

The United States has been beset by several extreme weather events this year, including the February freeze and record heat in the Pacific Northwest this summer.

The regulators - the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the North American Electric Reliability Corp (NERC) - issued their final report on the February freeze, also known as Winter Storm Uri, on Tuesday.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which operates most of the state's power grid, ordered rolling blackouts to prevent the grid from collapsing as extreme cold shut numerous power plants and froze gas pipelines.

The freeze left more than 4.5 million people in Texas without power - some for more than four days - and killed more than 100 people.

"The devastating effects of extreme cold on our bulk power system’s ability to operate... must not be allowed to happen again," FERC Chairman Rich Glick said in a statement.

NERC CEO Jim Robb said regulators want "substantially better coordination between the natural gas system and the electric system to ensure a reliable supply that nearly 400 million people across North America depend upon to support their way of life.”

The regulators said 87% of unplanned generation outages due to fuel issues were related to natural gas - mostly production and processing problems - while the other 13% involved issues with other fuels like coal or fuel oil.

About 43% of gas production declines were caused by freezing weather, and about 22% were caused by power losses from rolling blackouts or other weather-related outages like downed power lines, the regulators said.

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