Rolling blackouts wash over midwest
Utilities across the Midwest, including Corn Belt Power Cooperative, Prairie Energy’s power supplier, were called upon to implement shed load on February 15th and 16th . Corn Belt is a member of a regional transmission organization (RTO) known as Southwest Power Pool (SPP). The events of this week were a unique first time experience, as extreme and prolonged arctic weather significantly impacted the RTO’s 14-state footprint, stretching from Canada to northern Texas. Regional power supply Energy Emergency Alerts (EEA) were proclaimed as unprecedented, and historic energy demand was placed on the system as demand outweighed supply.
Many electric utilities across the country are members of one of nine RTOs and independent system operators (ISOs), also referred to as power pools. These federally regulated entities work on a regional scale to coordinate, control, and monitor supply and demand on the electric grid. RTOs do not own the power grid, but they do work as “air-traffic controllers” of the grid to ensure reliable supplies of power, adequate transmission infrastructure and competitive wholesale electricity prices on behalf of their members.
SPP issued an EEA Level 2 and Level 3 orders to its member utilities across several states February 15th through February 17th. To put it simply, there was not enough available generation/supply to meet this exceptionally high electric demand. This is the first time in its 80-year history SPP issued an EEA Level 2 or Level 3 warning.
Corn Belt Power’s times of curtailment included:
- Monday, February 15th, Corn Belt Power curtailed 5 megawatts of load for approximately 45 minutes around the noon hour. Approximately 1,500 accounts were without power.
- Tuesday, February 16th, Corn Belt Power was asked to curtail 24 megawatts of load between 6:45 – 10:15 a.m. Approximately 12,500 accounts were without power at some point during the event.
These outages occurred without much advanced warning, as SPP manages electric supply and demand minute-by-minute in real time. Corn Belt Power had minutes to shed specific electric load levels as they complied with Level 3 orders.
Outages and curtailment measures are necessary to protect the entire SPP power grid. If electric generation cannot keep up with electric demand, grid reliability can be severely compromised. Power plants across the SPP footprint were at risk of cascading outages that would leave tens of thousands of electric consumers in the dark for hours, possibly even days. Thanks to the efforts of Corn Belt Power, as well as several other utilities across the SPP footprint, the electric grid experienced only minor levels of service disruption.
We at Prairie Energy sincerely apologize for the lack of communication to warn and prepare our members for the sudden widespread outages. We were also unable to answer several phone calls, due to the very high call volume during the outages. Our plan moving forward includes how to provide more timely communication to you. We are working on procedures to give you advanced notifications, if possible. In that, we ask for your help - please make sure that we have your most current contact information (for example, if you no longer have a landline) so that we are able to notify you when situations arise. Look for a yellow card to update your information that will included with your March bill.
We have started by implementing a system-wide emergency call out; should we find ourselves in an EEA level 2 or 3 again, members will be notified as soon as possible via a phone robo-call. This call may appear as ‘Potential Spam’ on some smartphones, due to the nature of the mass call out. If you receive a call, please be sure to listen to the whole message. You can also follow our Facebook page for real time updates, even if you do not have an account with Facebook.
Again, we thank you. We appreciate your patience and understand any frustration or inconvenience caused by the rolling blackouts. Of course, we hope this doesn’t happen again, but know that hope is not a strategy. Rest assured we have learned from this experience and are making plans to serve you better. We strive to continue to bring you reliable power, and assure you that rates will not increase due to these events. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to call the office at 515-532-2805 or e-mail email@example.com