“Grim” was used to describe a new report about this winter and energy. The report is from NERC – the North American Electric Reliability Corporation. As the nation approaches the one-year anniversary of the February 2021 deep freeze, the report will get attention.

Large parts of the US could see power outages if there is extreme winter weather according to the report. Don’t just think about temperature. Think moisture, too, because some power is made with hydro resources. The report sees three big risk considerations:

The report covers the December–February period and evaluates power generation resources and transmission system adequacy. Here are the findings of the report.

  • Extreme weather events, including extended durations of colder than normal weather, pose a risk to the uninterrupted delivery of power to electricity consumers.
  • Natural gas supply disruptions, meanwhile, could affect “infrastructure-limited” areas, like ERCOT [Texas]. (My note – other areas need to think about whether they are limiting their future infrastructure and ability to keep the lights on.)
  • Generator Owners are facing challenges in obtaining fuels as many supply chains are stressed: No specific BPS [bulk power system] reliability impacts are currently foreseen; however, owners and operators of fossil-fired generators will need to monitor their coal and fuel oil stores and natural gas contracts as late-stage acquisitions are less assured this winter.
  • Operating plans for winter are in place, but generator resource availability could again suffer as a result of equipment failure or lack of fuel under severe winter conditions.

The Midcontinent and Texas appear to be the most threatened for power problems. Considering the February 2021 deadly deep freeze in Texas, still showing a greater risk than any other region speaks to the deficiencies of that regional transmission organization. Logic would say that starting last March the energy authorities in Texas would push full speed ahead. Consumers need assurances that changes are happening, not layers of authority that slow down action.

No region is out of the woods, really. The energy system has a lot of moving parts – weather, water, supply of fuel, plant operations … any can have their own issues that affect the whole system.

Consumers, no matter where they live, should always be prepared for winter weather and outages.

  ***

Map of the United States showing which winter average temperature outcome—much warmer than average (red) or much cooler than average (blue)—is most likely. Darker colors mean greater chances, not bigger temperature extremes. White does not mean “average.” It means a relatively warm, cool, or near average winter are equally likely. NOAA Climate.gov image, based on Climate Prediction Center data.

Map of the United States showing which winter average precipitation outcome—much wetter than average (blue-green) or much drier than average (brown)—is most likely. Darker colors mean greater chances, not bigger temperature extremes. White does not mean “average.” It means a relatively wet, dry, or near-average winter are equally likely. NOAA Climate.gov image, based on Climate Prediction Center data.

 ***

Feature image is from just outside of Austin Texas, in February 2021.