FERC Approves New Extreme Cold Weather Reliability Standards

On February 16, 2023, the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved two new North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) Reliability Standards: EOP-011-3 (Emergency Operations) and EOP-012-01 (Extreme Cold Weather Preparedness and Operations). The new standards stem from FERC and NERC’s joint inquiry into Winter Storm Uri — the February 2021 winter storm event that led to the largest controlled firm load shed event in U.S. history, with over 4.5 million people losing power and at least 210 people losing their lives. The joint inquiry resulted in the issuance of a November 2021 report that included recommendations for NERC reliability standard enhancements to improve extreme cold weather operations, preparedness, and coordination. The November 2021 report found that the bulk power system “cannot operate reliability without adequate generation.”[1]

In FERC’s February 16, 2023 order approving the new reliability standards, FERC found that the proposed standards work to address the risk posed by extreme cold weather events to the bulk power system by enhancing reliability.

The new reliability standards require generator owners to

  • implement freeze protection measures on their applicable generating units based on the extreme cold weather temperatures for their units’ locations, including enhanced cold weather preparedness plans
  • identify generator cold weather critical components that are susceptible to freezing
  • implement corrective actions to ensure that the identified causes of equipment freezing do not recur
  • design and implement annual training for generation maintenance and operations personnel
  • develop procedures to improve the coordination of load reduction measures during a grid emergency

FERC’s February 16, 2023 order directs NERC to develop and submit modifications to Reliability Standard EOP-012-1 within 12 months. In addition, to ensure that Reliability Standard EOP-012-1 is adequately addressing reliability concerns related to generator owner constraint declarations and the adequacy of the newly developed extreme cold weather definition, FERC’s order directs NERC to work with FERC staff to submit a plan no later than 12 months after the date of issuance of the order on how it will collect and assess data periodically to monitor the implementation of the new requirements for generator owners. Finally, FERC directs NERC to assess annual and event-based data submittals to address the elements of Reliability Standard EOP-012-1, including generator-owner-declared constraints and explanations thereof, the adequacy of the extreme cold weather temperature definition.

According to FERC, these reliability standards implement approximately half of the standards-related recommendations from the joint inquiry into the 2021 winter storm, and the remaining NERC recommendations will be addressed in a second phase of NERC’s standards development, which is now underway.

[1] FERC, NERC, and Regional Entity Staff, The February 2021 Cold Weather Outages in Texas and the South Central United States, at 189 (Nov. 16, 2021), https://www.ferc.gov/media/february-2021-cold-weather-outages-texas-and-south-central-united-states-ferc-nerc-and (November 2021 Report).

This post is as of the posting date stated above. Sidley Austin LLP assumes no duty to update this post or post about any subsequent developments having a bearing on this post.