If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.



Feds finalize rules to bolster, broaden power grid

Changes aim to buffer extreme weather outages and make way for renewable energy

by Leigh Krietsch Boerner
May 16, 2024 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 102, Issue 15


People lined up to fill propane tanks during a power outage.
Credit: Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP
People in Houston wait to fill propane tanks on Feb. 16, 2021. Severe storms, cold, and an overtaxed grid knocked out power to millions.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has released the final draft of a rule it says will ensure the nation’s power grid keeps up with increasing demand for electricity, including power from renewable sources.

The rule marks the first time in over 10 years that FERC has imposed regulations on how regions transmit power and the first time it has tackled grid planning for the long term.

“Our country is facing an unprecedented surge in demand for affordable electricity while confronting extreme weather threats to the reliability of our grid and trying to stay one step ahead of the massive technological changes we are seeing in our society,” says FERC Chairman Willie Phillips in a statement.

He points to five events in the last 12 years where extreme weather caused large outages resulting in the deaths of hundreds of people and millions of dollars in damages. One was the 2021 winter storm that caused a state of emergency across Texas. The combination of downed power lines and high demand on the electrical grid caused blackouts for over two-thirds of people living in Texas and around 700 deaths, according to a Buzzfeed News investigation.

Under the new rule, FERC will require power grid operators to develop plans for transmission needs at least 20 years into the future and revisit them every 5 years. Grid operators will also need to consider how to fund potential changes.

Phillips emphasizes the benefits of the new rule to electrical customers. “If you don’t benefit from a transmission project, you will not have to pay for it,” he says in an informational video.

The final rule comes after pressure from lawmakers, advocacy groups, and industry. In January, a group of 44 businesses, including BASF, Eastman Chemical, and Thermo Fisher Scientific, wrote a letter to Phillips requesting that FERC finalize a rule to modernize and expand the electrical grid.

FERC passed a separate rule that allows it to grant permission for power lines that cross multiple states. Renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, need long power lines to carry electricity into cities from distant generation sites. The lack of regulation for interstate power lines has slowed the transition to renewable energy.

Both rules will go into effect 60 days after official publication. Grid operators have 10 to 12 months to comply.



This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.