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Power Grid Operators Continue to Grapple With Extreme Weather Conditions

Power grid operators across a wide swath of the U.S. this week are continuing to take a number of steps to maintain reliability in the face of extreme weather conditions that are expected to continue throughout the week.


With a winter storm blanketing Texas, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas on Jan. 16 said that conservation efforts, along with additional grid reliability tools, helped the grid operator get through record-breaking peak times Jan. 15 and 16.

An ERCOT Weather Watch remains in effect through January 17.

ERCOT previously asked state residents to conserve electricity use on January 16, from 6 a.m. – 9 a.m. CT.  ERCOT was forecasting higher demand on the morning of Jan. 16 as Texans returned to work and schools reopened.

On Jan. 15, ERCOT avoided emergency operations due to the conservation efforts by Texas residents and businesses, combined with additional grid reliability tools.

ERCOT said it was expecting similar conditions on January 17, and will continue to closely monitor conditions and keep the public informed through our communication channels. 

The grid operator noted that the conservation appeal did not indicate ERCOT was experiencing emergency conditions at this time.

“ERCOT will remain vigilant and communicate further if conditions change because of continued freezing temperatures and very high demand in the morning hours,” it said.

ERCOT asked all government agencies (including city and county offices) to implement all programs to reduce energy use at their facilities until at least 9 a.m., Jan, 16.  

ERCOT said it continues to use additional tools to manage the grid reliably, including using reserve power, calling upon reductions by large electric customers that have volunteered to lower their energy use, and bringing more generation online sooner.

ERCOT is also working with out-of-state Independent System Operators and Market Participants to obtain additional power generation capacity, if available.

ERCOT has obtained Texas Commission on Environmental Quality enforcement discretion, which allows a generator to extend its service/run-time/operations to help meet demand, if needed, and maintain grid reliability. 

Texas Public Power Utilities 

A number of public power utilities in Texas detailed steps they are taking in response to the cold weather and provided tips to customers.

Austin Energy on Jan. 12 said that community members should take immediate steps to protect people, pets, pipes, and plants from the cold weather projected for the weekend of Jan. 13-14.

The Brownsville Public Utilities Commission on Jan. 14 and 15 shared on its website that ERCOT was asking for electrical conservation.

Several other Texas public power utilities and communities including: Bryan Texas Utilities, Denton Municipal Electric, Garland Power & Light, City of Georgetown, Greeneville, Texas public power utility GEUS, Pedernales Electric Cooperative, Kerrville Public Utility Board, Lubbock Power & Light, New Braunfels Utilities, CPS Energy, and the Lower Colorado River Authority -- utilized their social media channels to share updates from ERCOT related to the severe weather conditions.

TVA Asks Customers to Conserve Power Amid High Demand

Heavy snow and bitter cold temperatures are creating record high demand for electricity across the Southeast region, the Tennessee Valley Authority said on Jan. 16.

 As a result, TVA asked customers to be aware of their power consumption, specifically between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. CT on Wednesday.

“TVA is actively monitoring weather conditions, and our power system remains stable. Conservation requests are often used in the power industry to help lower demand during a specific time and does not indicate TVA is experiencing emergency conditions. If you are experiencing an outage, please check with your local electric provider for more information,” it said.

TVA employees and local power companies are working around the clock to keep the electricity flowing.

“Together, we are doing our part to reduce the strain on the power grid,” it said, noting that it has lowered thermostats in offices and is keeping lights off in buildings and plants when it is safe to do so.

TVA said its record for system load at this time is 33,482 MW, which was set on August 16, 2007.

The previous record load for a winter day was 33,427 MW set on December 23, 2022.

In the past year, TVA has added approximately 1,500 megawatts of new natural gas generation.

Pacific Northwest

In Oregon, public power utility Eugene Water and Electric Board posted an update on its website on Jan. 16 related to power restoration efforts in the wake of a recent winter storm.

Crews restored electric power to EWEB's Hayden Bridge Water Filtration Plant Monday evening, allowing operators to switch off the generators and rely again on the grid, EWEB said.

The water treatment plant is well-stocked with fuel and equipment, including the onsite chlorine generation technology. “But the restoration of electric power marked a victory for EWEB crews, all of whom have been in the field since Saturday assessing outages, making safe any dangerous situations and restoring power,” EWEB reported. 

Across Eugene, crews have been following EWEB’s restoration protocols -- called the “hierarchy of repair” -- to focus first on fixing equipment that serves the greatest number of customers, then moving on to fixing equipment that serves fewer customers.

As of mid-day Tuesday, about 4,900 customers remained without power, while EWEB has restored the power of thousands more since the storm began.

“Our crews appreciate the support of community members grateful for their work as they navigate slick roads and frigid conditions to get the power back on for customers,” said Tyler Nice, EWEB electric operations manager. “But we know many other customers are still out of power. We’re thankful for customers’ patience as we all band together to get through this ice storm.”

Five contract crews started working on Tuesday, bolstering EWEB’s capacity to fix outages and restore power.

EWEB said it is bracing for another round of outages in the days ahead.

The first challenge will be a second round of ice that was forecasted to hit the region Tuesday afternoon. 

The National Weather Service predicts about 0.2 inches of ice accumulation late Tuesday afternoon and evening, when temperatures will finally rise above freezing and precipitation will shift to rain. 

EWEB said that the fresh layer of ice could damage trees that are already struggling with the icy weight, causing them to snap and damage electrical equipment. If conditions deteriorate, EWEB may need to pull back crews to make sure they stay safe.

The second challenge is that after the ice begins to thaw, limbs that are currently suspended by ice could cut loose, causing yet more outages.

“This storm is a marathon, not a sprint based on the conditions and damage we have seen so far. Our crews are prioritizing safety to make sure that injuries and equipment damage don’t sideline us or prevent us from continuing to restore power,” Nice said. “We’re still hoping for the best, but we are ready in case it gets worse before it gets better. We will be closely monitoring ice conditions and system outages through the night.” 

Upriver, most of EWEB’s transmission lines are still down, meaning that EWEB has a long road ahead to restore power to customers east of Thurston. The transmission lines need to be repaired before EWEB crews can start repairing the local distribution networks that bring power to individual homes.

EWEB said that conditions on the roads leading to transmission lines upriver are still hazardous. When conditions are safe, crews will begin tackling restoration of transmission lines, following the hierarchy of repair.

EWEB General Manager Frank Lawson issued an emergency declaration for the utility, effective at 6 a.m. Sunday morning, Jan. 14.

All crews have been working since Saturday morning, Jan. 13, to assess power outages, make safe any situations that are dangerous, and restore power, the utility noted on Jan. 15.

EWEB is offering tips on its website for customers should they experience a power outage, among other things.

The Bonneville Power Administration on Jan. 16 reported that its crews worked through the weekend in the Eugene, Oregon area to repair high-voltage power lines damaged by the recent winter weather.

“BPA still has several lines out of service keeping us from providing electricity to area utilities and some of their customers. We are coordinating our efforts with those utilities and prioritizing lines and equipment vital to restoring power,” it said.

BPA linemen from other parts of the region are already in the area helping repair damaged lines and equipment and will continue to work to safely and quickly make repairs to restore power, it said.

SPP Extends Advisory

Meanwhile, the Southwest Power Pool on Jan. 15 said that it was extending a Cold Weather Advisory for its entire Balancing Authority through an anticipated end time of 12:00 a.m. CT Sunday, Jan. 21. This extended the advisory from a previously anticipated end time of  6 p.m. CT Tuesday, Jan. 16.

SPP weather advisories do not require the public to conserve energy, but are issued to raise awareness of potential threats to reliability among entities responsible for operating transmission and generation facilities.

The advisory extension was declared due to forecasted extreme cold temperatures, potential for gas interruptions, increased risk of cold temperature/icing cutout of wind resources, above normal loading conditions, and potential for generation facility equipment failures.

Generation and transmission operators have been provided instructions on applicable procedures, including reporting any limitations, fuel shortages or concerns, SPP noted.

“To mitigate risks to reliability associated with these factors, SPP may use greater unit commitment notification timeframes, including making commitments before standard day-ahead market procedures and/or committing resources in reliability status,” it said.

PJM Extends Cold Weather Advisory Through Jan. 21 for Western Region

The PJM Interconnection on Jan. 16 said that it has extended a Cold Weather Advisory for its Western Region through Sunday, Jan. 21, as temperatures are expected to remain frigid in that region.

When PJM expects significantly cold weather to impact all or parts of the PJM footprint, it issues a Cold Weather Advisory to provide a two-to-five-day notice that forecast temperatures may call for a Cold Weather Alert.

This is meant to give generation owners ample time to proactively prepare their units to operate during pending cold weather and to provide information to PJM about their operating availability, capabilities and limitations to help PJM operators plan for the extreme weather.

Temperatures are expected to remain in the single digits in PJM’s Western Region, which will drive up the demand for electricity in that area.

The Cold Weather Alert that began Jan. 1, remains in effect through Jan. 17 for the same area.

Additionally, in light of the weather and pipeline fuel restrictions reported by gas pipeline operators, PJM remains in Conservative Operations through Jan. 17.

PJM said it was able to support neighboring regions through the holiday weekend with approximately 6,000 MW to 10,000 MW of net exported electricity, and those exports continue.

Although information is preliminary, natural gas supply and transportation sectors have performed as expected, meaning any gas generation outages are within what is expected and planned for in frigid temperatures.

PJM said it will continue to monitor the progression of the cold weather eastward and determine whether additional Cold Weather Alerts are appropriate.

PJM and its member companies “continue to maintain sufficient generation supply to meet electricity demand in the frigid weather,” it said.

As the significant cold weather continues throughout the PJM region, PJM provided its updated peak load forecast for Tuesday, Jan. 16, through Friday, Jan. 19:

  • Tuesday, Jan. 16 – 131,337 MW
  • Wednesday, Jan. 17 – 135,200 MW
  • Thursday, Jan. 18 – 126,614 MW
  • Friday, Jan. 19 – 122,195 MW

Load forecasts can be viewed on the PJM Now application, PJM Data Viewer (72 hours) and PJM Data Miner (7 days).

PJM has served the following preliminary peak loads since Jan. 14:

  • Sunday, Jan. 14 – 113,266 MW
  • Monday, Jan. 15 – 123,289 MW

Western Region

The Western Region in PJM is made up of the following transmission zones and control areas:

  • AES Ohio (formerly Dayton Power & Light)
  • American Electric Power (AEP Ohio, Appalachian Power, Indiana Michigan Power and Kentucky Power)
  • American Municipal Power Transmission
  • ComEd
  • Cleveland Public Power
  • Dayton Power & Light
  • Duke Energy Ohio and Duke Energy Kentucky
  • Duquesne Light Company
  • East Kentucky Power Cooperative
  • FirstEnergy South – former Allegheny Power Systems (West Penn Power, Mon Power, Potomac Edison)
  • FirstEnergy West – former American Transmission Systems, Inc. (Penn Power, Ohio Edison, The Illuminating Company and Toledo Edison)
  • Ohio Valley Electric Corporation


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