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MCGA Statement: Critical Infrastructure and Weather in the Southwest United States

Updated: Jan 17, 2023

ALEXANDRIA, VA (February 19, 2021) – About every 10 years arctic cold fronts reach as far south in the United States as Houston, Texas. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) published their findings on the 2011 cold weather event that occurred in the southwest U.S. to detail the known causes and recommendations for preventing damage to critical infrastructure, but much of the recommendations have been implemented. Given the latest arctic front to hit the southwest, Mission Critical Global Alliance (MCGA) wondered why the electrical systems and other critical infrastructure once again fell short of meeting customer demands.

While the weather is the root cause of these system failures, it is not the only reason for the reoccurrence. To determine why these systems have failed again, a root cause analysis of this recent event is necessary along with a review to determine if ERCOT, power generation companies, and the natural gas industry implemented system hardening recommendations from previous events.

In the aforementioned FERC/NERC report, it was noted that, “Many generators failed to adequately apply and institutionalize knowledge and recommendations from previous severe winter weather events, especially as to winterization of generation and plant auxiliary equipment.” The 2011 event “…represented the longest sustained cold spell in 25 years.” As climate patterns change, the frequency and severity of extreme weather events of this type continue to increase.

It is long past time for companies to develop the right resources (e.g., people, process, technology) to reduce the likelihood of similar failures happening in the future. MCGA is prepared to support efforts to determine the root causes for failure of the Texas power and other critical infrastructure along with the identification of appropriate solutions.

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