Regulators issue standards to prevent another Texas grid freeze

By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. and North American energy regulators on Thursday issued recommendations and mandatory electric reliability standards for utilities that they hope will prevent a repeat of February's deadly power outages in Texas during a deep freeze.

The freeze left 4.5 million without power over several days in the state, killing more than 100 people.

"I cannot, and will not allow this to become yet another report that serves no purpose other than to gather dust on the shelf," Rich Glick, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), said about the preliminary recommendations and standards the regulators expect to finalize in November.

FERC and the North American Electric Reliability Corp (NERC) released the recommendations that include revisions of mandatory reliability standards.

The revisions require power utilities to identify and protect cold-weather critical components, build new or retrofit existing units to operate at specific conditions based on extreme temperature and weather data, and develop corrective plans for those that suffer freeze-related outages.

"We welcome the combined expert insights of the FERC/NERC report as essential information as we pursue our shared agenda of grid transformation," said Peter Lake, chairman of the Public Utility Commission of Texas, which regulates the state's grid.

FERC does not have jurisdiction over the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the operator of the Texas grid. But Jim Robb, president and chief executive of NERC, said his organization had jurisdiction in Texas over reliability matters.

In 2011, FERC probed ways to protect the Texas grid from power outages after a cold snap that was milder than the most recent one. Its recommendations included winterization of natural gas and other installations. Texas authorities never implemented those recommendations, leaving the state's grid vulnerable.

Texas regulators have been working on their own ways to protect the grid from extreme weather.

"The work that the team has done here reflects things that would be additive to what Texas has been working on and not in conflict with," Robb told reporters.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Additional reporting by Scott Disavino; Editing by David Gregorio and Peter Cooney)