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Power & Pipes

FERC, CFTC, and State Energy Law Developments

In the wake of the February extreme cold weather that caused record levels of electric generation to be taken offline, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or the Commission) has scheduled a two-day technical conference to discuss issues surrounding the threat to electric system reliability posed by climate change and extreme weather. The virtual technical conference is scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, June 1 and 2, from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm ET.

As we discussed in February, an unusually extreme cold weather affecting the lower Midwest and Gulf states left millions without natural gas and electricity. In Texas, the state’s grid operator, Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), implemented rolling blackouts as the state set a winter record for power demand of more than 69,000 megawatts while more than 40,000 megawatts of power generation had been forced off the system. Though investigation into the causes of the system’s failure is ongoing, initial indications show that the extreme cold inhibited all types of power sources, such as solar, wind, and natural gas, as these resources were not equipped to operate in the extreme weather that blanketed the region.

In response, FERC had announced last month that it would open a new proceeding, including a technical conference, to examine the threats of climate change and extreme weather to electric reliability.

The Commission seeks to address concerns that “extreme weather events are increasing in frequency, intensity, geographic expanse, and duration,” which may increase the number and severity of weather-induced disruptions to the electric power industry. The technical conference will also address specific challenges posed to electric system reliability “by climate change and extreme weather,” noting that such challenges vary by region.