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Extreme weather leads to power disruptions to protect electric grid

Utilities across the Midwest, including Corn Belt Power Cooperative, implemented load control measures and temporary service disruptions to some meters on Feb. 15 and 16. These highly unusual control measures were needed to protect the supply and demand balance of the electric grid as electric demand exceeded available supply because of extremely cold weather impacting the region over several days.

Many electric utilities across the country are members of one of nine regional transmission organizations (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. Corn Belt Power Cooperative’s RTO is Southwest Power Pool (SPP).

SPP issued unprecedented Emergency Energy Alert (EEA) Level 2 and Level 3 orders to its member utilities across several states on Monday and Tuesday, calling for high levels of electric load reduction/curtailment to match available supply. With the extremely frigid weather that has impacted large regions of the nation over the past several days, electric demand (mostly due to electric heat) has reached historic highs. To put it simply, there was not enough available generation/supply to meet this exceptionally high electric demand.

Corn Belt Power’s times of curtailment included:

·       Monday, February 15, 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 16, 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 Cooperative had minutes to shed specific electric load levels as they complied with Level 3 orders. When possible, electric utilities work to avoid interrupting service to critical facilities.

Currently (6:26 a.m., Tuesday, February 16), Corn Belt Power and the SPP system is in an EEA-Level 2. This means that power outages are still possible.

Here’s what you can do to help:

  •       Turn down your thermostats
  •       Cover drafty windows
  •       Avoid using large appliances like clothes washers, clothes dryers and ovens
  •       Turn off and unplug non-essential lights and appliances