Southwest Power Pool, the electric grid manager with headquarters in Little Rock, is reviewing its performance and its member utilities’ actions during last month’s arctic weather in Arkansas and surrounding states.
Texas, which has its own independent power grid but also relies on outside regional transmission organizations like SPP, suffered a power generation crisis that cut power to millions of people for days on end, contributing to the largest insurance-loss event in state history. Frozen pipes that burst as they thawed added insult to injury, flooding homes and businesses and leaving millions without drinking water.
The mid-February winter storm brought polar temperatures and heavy snow to most of SPP’s 17-state territory in the middle United States. The extreme cold spurred a surge in electricity use that overwhelmed power generation capacity, particularly in regions where generators were hampered by winter conditions.
SPP collaborated with its member utilities and fellow grid operators to keep the power flowing, but it was forced to employ controlled power outages for two periods, a 50-minute span on Feb. 15 to reduce regional energy use by 1.5%, and a three hour 21-minute outage Feb. 6 to cut the load by 6.5%.
“Those actions prevented longer, uncontrolled, more widespread and more costly blackouts,” the nonprofit grid manager said in a news release.
“We’re very proud of our ability to minimize the impacts of this historic winter storm, but not so proud that we don’t think we can learn from the event,” said Barbara Sugg, SPP president and chief executive officer. “We will learn, adapt and be better prepared for the future. Continuous improvement is part of our culture, and it extends beyond operations.”
The regional transmission organization formed a Comprehensive Review Steering Committee to oversee five teams reviewing the crisis and response. The teams will represent SPP staff, stakeholders, the independent SPP Market Monitoring Unit and the SPP Regional State Committee, the release said. Lanny Nickell, SPP’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, has been tapped to chair the steering committee. The five teams will take a look at several factors in connection with the winter crisis, including operations, finances and communications.
The group will present early findings in April and offer a final assessment and recommendations to the SPP Board of Directors and Members Committee in July. The Midwest Reliability Organization, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation are also conducting separate, independent assessments in which SPP will participate.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has called for a state investigation into February’s power failures, and state officials have expressed concern about steep increases in Arkansans’ utility bills due to pricing surges during the generation emergency.
Along with managing the electric grid across a 17-state footprint, SPP provides energy services on a contract basis in both the Eastern and Western Interconnections in America’s power grid.