Extreme cold forcing rotating outages, generation uncertainty in midwest, southern U.S.

Grid system operators across the southern and Midwest U.S. are cautioning utilities and customers that electricity power is at risk due to high demand during an extreme cold streak stretching across the country.

The Southwest Power Pool, Midcontinent System Operator (MISO) and Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) all released statements highlighting challenges to the system in the face of bitter low temperatures and high demand.

Texas is suffering from historically low temperatures, and ERCOT announced it had entered emergency conditions and initiated rotating outages at 1:25 a.m. Monday. Many service territories were impacted by temperatures below zero.

About 10,500 MW of customer load was shed at the highest point. This is enough power to serve approximately two million homes.

Extreme weather conditions caused many generating units – across fuel types – to trip offline and become unavailable.

There is now over 30,000 MW of generation forced off the system.

“Every grid operator and every electric company is fighting to restore power right now,” said ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness.

Rotating outages will likely last throughout the morning and could be initiated until this weather emergency ends.

The Southwest Power Pool took a less stringent measure, asking electric utility customers and businesses to reduce the strain on natural gas resources by conserving electricity use. One of those tactics is to lower the thermostat to 68 degrees, according to the SPP.

Following these guidelines to reduce the use of electricity will help avoid possible electric power shortages later. Given the prolonged, below-freezing temperatures, conservation measures should be implemented safely and within reason.

SPP has 95 members, including investor-owned utilities, municipal systems, generation and transmission cooperatives, state authorities, wholesale generators and independent transmission companies, in Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming.

MISO declared a a Maximum Generation Emergency Alert effective for much of Monday for its south region. The extreme cold weather had caused uncertainty with generation commitments and fuel uncertainty.

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