In the aftermath of last week’s deadly Texas freeze that left millions of people without electricity, federal energy regulators in the United States say they will investigate the risks that climate change and severe weather events pose to the country’s electrical reliability.
“The effects of climate change are already apparent,” Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Chairman Richard Glick said in a statement on Monday.
“We must do everything we can within our statutory authority to ensure that the electric grid is capable of keeping the lights (on) in the face of extreme weather.”
FERC, which controls interstate power, oil and gas transmission and permits fossil fuel projects such as pipelines, may play a major role in the commitment made by US President Joe Biden to make the grid emissions-free by 2035.
It was not immediately clear how FERC, a panel of five commissioners with a 3-2 Republican majority until about June, could help ensure that in an era of severe weather events, power distribution remains reliable.
A crushing heatwave last August in California culminated in rolling blackouts for two days.
Ten years ago, FERC looked at ways to secure the grid and wrote guidelines for how to make natural gas and other installations more resilient to severe cold after a milder Texas cold snap led to power outages.
“We followed up on those for a couple of years, but actual implementation was in the hands primarily of the Texas authorities who run the grid, and as memories faded most of those steps were not taken,” former FERC chair Cheryl LaFleur told the Reuters news agency in a video interview.
She said a stronger response should be triggered by the severity of last week’s freeze, which killed at least 24 people.
Glick, a Democrat, said earlier this month that FERC will build the panel’s first role to oversee environmental justice. The individual will ensure that FERC decisions do not harm traditionally disadvantaged communities with pollution unfairly, he said.