Enhancing power system resilience to extreme weather events : a qualitative assessment of Winter Storm Uri

Potts, Jerry Lee
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In February 2021, Winter Storm Uri left 11 million people in Texas without power, many without water, and caused billions of dollars in damage. While the severity of this event was primarily caused by electricity generator failures, it was made worse by the decisions of utilities and state regulators before, during, and after the event. This study seeks to (1) evaluate the procedures and decisions made by electric utilities during Winter Storm Uri, and (2) provide a set of recommendations to improve the resilience of energy systems in preparation for future extreme weather events. Fourteen semi-structured interviews were conducted with electric utilities across Texas and underwent hybrid inductive-deductive qualitative coding to identify issues present in the operations and decision-making processes of utilities as well as potential solutions across five dimensions of resilience. The study outlines a set of recommendations to help ensure that utilities are better prepared to respond to future disaster events and minimize community impacts, such as sectionalizing circuits to improve load shed, collaborating with neighboring utilities to share resources, and expanding the use of social media to improve customer outreach.