On February 15, 2024, FERC approved two new extreme cold weather Reliability Standards EOP-011-4 (Emergency Operations) and TOP-002-5 (Operations Planning).

This approval is the culmination of a joint inquiry and November 2021 report (“Report”) among FERC, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (“NERC”), and regional entity staff into a February 2021 cold weather reliability event that affected Texas and the South-Central United States, which was the largest controlled firm load shed event in U.S. history.  The Report recommended reliability standard enhancements to improve extreme cold weather operations, preparedness, and coordination.

On October 30, 2023, NERC petitioned for approval on an expedited basis of proposed Reliability Standards EOP-011-4 and TOP-002-5.  The petition explained that its proposal built on the 2021 and 2023 cold weather Reliability Standards and are consistent with key recommendations from the Report.

NERC explained that EOP-011-4 requires transmission operators to consider the impacts of load shedding during emergency conditions on the natural gas infrastructure that fuels a significant portion of bulk electric system generation.  Specifically, EOP-011-4 modifies EOP-011-3 by (1) adding distribution providers, Underfrequency Load Shed (“UFLS”)-only distribution providers, and transmission owners to the list of applicable entities that must comply with EOP-011-4; (2) requiring transmission providers to include operating plan provisions that identify and prioritize designated critical natural gas infrastructure loads; and (3) requiring balancing authorities to develop reliability coordinator-reviewed operating plans with provisions that exclude critical natural gas infrastructure loads, among others, during extreme cold weather events in each balancing authority area.  EOP-011-4 also requires transmission operators to implement operator-controlled manual load shed, and UFLS or Undervoltage Load Shed (“UVLS”) in operating plans.  Finally, certain distribution providers must develop a load shedding plan.  NERC’s proposed effective date is the first day of the first calendar quarter that is six months following regulatory approval.

In turn, TOP-002-5 requires each balancing authority to maintain an operating process for extreme cold weather events that includes methodologies to: (a) identify an “extreme cold weather condition;” (b) determine an appropriate extreme cold weather reserve margin; and (c) determine a five-day hourly forecast that accounts for all relevant operational considerations.  NERC proposed the effective date as the first day of the first calendar quarter that is 18 months following regulatory approval.

In the Order, FERC found the Reliability Standards to be consistent with recommendations from the November 2021 Report and improve the reliable operation of the Bulk-Power System.  FERC approved Reliability Standards EOP-011-4 and TOP-002-5, ultimately finding them to be just, reasonable, not unduly discriminatory, and in the public interest.  However, FERC deferred its decision on whether to approve or modify the proposed implementation date for Reliability Standard EOP-011-4 and the retirement of Reliability Standards EOP-011-2 and EOP-011-3 until NERC submits its revised applicability section for Reliability Standard EOP-012-2.

In a concurring opinion, Commissioner Clements approved the Reliability Standards but expressed concern about the delayed implementation timeline for EOP-011-4, highlighting the importance of these revised standards. FERC’s order, issued at Docket No. RD24-1, can be found here.