Expect Rolling Blackouts
Burgum urges WAPA to provide as much advance notice as possible before implementing power outages
Tuesday, February 16, 2021 - 04:00pm
BISMARCK, N.D. – During a phone call today with the administrator of the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), Gov. Doug Burgum urged the agency to give North Dakota utilities and their customers as much advance warning as possible before temporarily shutting off their electricity as directed by market operator Southwest Power Pool (SPP).
SPP is implementing rolling blackouts to balance the power load across its 14-state region, including North Dakota, as demand for electricity is skyrocketing due to extreme cold weather gripping the central U.S. as far south as Texas, where 4.5 million people were without power today, and supply of electricity is dropping due to production issues with intermittent sources.
In addition to requesting as much notice as possible before a rolling blackout happens, Burgum also urged WAPA Administrator Mark Gabriel to consider the secondary effects and unintended consequences of rolling blackouts on critical infrastructure such as natural gas processing plants in western North Dakota. Burgum noted that cutting power to those processing plants threatens to interrupt the supply of natural gas flowing to consumers’ homes as well as to North Dakota gas-fired peaking plants that are generating electricity and helping to keep power flowing across the central United States.
“While we understand WAPA has received short notice from SPP to reduce load, North Dakotans deserve as much lead time as possible to prepare for rolling blackouts before their service areas are affected,” Burgum said. “These agencies also must ensure that rolling blackouts don’t have a negative domino effect by sidelining other energy sources from the grid, such as gas processing plants in western North Dakota.”
“This situation is a wake-up call, one that should trigger a national discussion about the importance of policies that support the absolutely essential baseload generation such as coal-fired power plants as part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy,” Burgum added. “Instead of heavily subsidizing non-dispatchable, intermittent sources with tens of billions of dollars in tax breaks, we should be investing more in research and innovation such as carbon capture and sequestration that strengthens our baseload capacity to meet the needs of all Americans, all of the time, with clean, reliable energy. It’s also a stark reminder that we must make every effort to find a buyer to keep Coal Creek Station open and operating as an essential piece of our region’s baseload capacity, and to maintain a stable tax and regulatory environment for future investments in much-needed transmission infrastructure.”
WAPA said the emergency may last through Thursday and that utility customers should be prepared for unexpected outages, which WAPA is trying to limit to 45 minutes.
February 16 - 4 p.m.
Verendrye had no control, almost no notice of rolling blackouts
When power was cut by a federal power producer to the first Verendrye substation Tuesday morning, dispatchers received a one minute notice.
The first rolling blackout affected a large part of southwest Minot and areas towards Burlington, Des Lacs and Ryder.
“We were told this morning after 7 a.m. that rolling blackouts might happen, and we immediately began communicating with our members on social media, messaging and in the news media,” said Manager Randy Hauck. “But when power was actually cut to the first substation, the notice was literally about one minute.”
Verendrye had no control over the power being cut. The Western Area Power Association (WAPA), a federal power marketing agency, cut the power.
Later that morning WAPA cut power to a second area covering southern parts of Verendrye’s system. Unfortunately when power was restored in the first outage, a fuse blew, causing outages of over two hours for some members. The rolling outages are planned to last 45 minutes to an hour at most.
Verendrye is a retail power supplier that only sells power to its members in 7 North Dakota counties. It relies on wholesalers like WAPA for its energy. Those wholesalers are members of the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), a regional power transmission organization that serves 14 states extending to Texas.
Early this morning SPP issued an emergency alert ordering rolling blackouts to help ease strain on the grid, which WAPA followed. Rolling blackouts are done when the amount of energy produced cannot keep up with demand. They can prevent larger problems from happening on the grid.
Bitter cold temperatures in the plains and even in southern states like Texas, caused higher than normal demand across the entire grid. The availability of wind energy was also diminished because of the lack of wind and also because some turbines were covered in ice. There were also issues with natural gas delivery and with other types of electricity generation.
Blackouts could occur again tonight, and into tomorrow. If your power goes out, you do not need to notify us unless it is longer than an hour.
“We appreciate everyone’s patience during these rolling blackouts,” Hauck said. “We expect the problem to subside soon with the arrival of warmer weather.”
Power grid operators implement rolling blackouts for Verendrye and others
Verendrye members experienced rolling blackouts early Tuesday morning because of a strain on the power grid caused by bitter cold temperatures in several states. The blackouts will continue until further notice. They are expected to last between 45 to 60 minutes at a time.
The Southwest Power Pool (SPP), which operates the grid that includes N.D. and 13 other states, declared an emergency alert and implemented rolling blackouts to restore stability to the grid. Rolling blackouts are a step taken to avoid bigger problems with the electrical grid.
SPP works with wholesale energy distributors to implement the blackouts. Verendrye is a retail energy provider and has no control over which areas have their power interrupted and when. If your power goes out, you do not need to notify us unless it is longer than an hour.