Penelec prepares for arctic demands by revising past outage procedures

Issue 2 and Volume 99.

Penelec prepares for arctic demands by revising past outage procedures

Penelec is making use of lessons learned during extended arctic weather in January 1994. The company began an immediate review of operations after rotating power outages were implemented on Jan. 19, 1994, by all of the companies in the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland (PJM) system power pool, which includes most of the five surrounding states and the District of Columbia.

Penelec had not implemented rotating power outages, which are designed to prevent an uncontrolled, cascading power outage that could result in a widespread blackout, since Sept. 22, 1970.

However, last winter subzero temperatures strained generating equipment as repeated ice and snowstorms froze coal stockpiles and coal-handling equipment, according to Branson A. Williams, Penelec?s system operations manager. Further complicating matters, hazardous road conditions prevented the resupply of oil-fired equipment.

Surrounding states were experiencing similar weather conditions, limiting the amount of power Penelec and other companies in the PJM system could purchase from neighboring power pools. Penelec customers set a new usage record of 2,514 MW at 7 p.m. on Jan. 18, and about 12 hours later, PJM implemented rotating outages.

OThe emergency procedures in place worked as intended to preserve the reliability of the electric system, but we identified a number of actions or modifications that the company could take to improve both our operations and communications with customers,O Williams said.

Shelters, heaters and other equipment were installed at generating stations to help reduce coal freezing as it moved along the delivery system.

Fuel oil gelling was also a problem in some mobile equipment and increased kerosene blends and fuel additives were used to counteract the frigid conditions.

Procedures for rotating power outages were modified to allow more flexibility and advance notification for commercial and industrial customers for whom a sudden loss of electricity can be costly. Plans have been made for early notification of customers, regulatory agencies and public officials.

OWe have taken these actions to help prevent a reoccurrence or to facilitate the implementation of rotating power outages if the need should occur,O Williams said.

Several steps are taken before implementing a rotating power outage, including requesting industrial customers with curtailment contracts to cut back use during high demand periods, cutting back electricity use in power plants and Penelec offices, reducing system voltage by 5 percent across the region, asking commercial and industrial customers to voluntarily reduce use, and running radio and television advertising appealing to all customers to voluntarily reduce power usage.