Energy regulator investigating polar vortex impact on grid

The top energy regulator for the U.S. is in the early stages of investigating the impacts of last year’s harsh winter on the nation’s electric grid.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) said on Thursday that it has started three investigations into the polar vortex, credited for the record cold last winter, and weather-related outages that left certain regions of the U.S. dark.

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The FERC said “lessons learned from the polar vortex” will help prepare utilities and the grid for the coming winter.

The commission is also asking utilities to respond to data requests surrounding outages and “information on how the major issues identified in their own reports on the polar vortex are being addressed.”

FERC is also looking into whether certain electricity providers “improperly benefited” from price manipulation and constrained conditions during the harsh winter. 

Last year’s harsh winter resulted in blackouts in regions hit by the bitter cold, and left natural gas reserves low. The grid was strained, causing concern over its reliability in such conditions.