Southwest Power Pool Proposes Ways To Prevent Rolling Blackouts For Future Extreme Weather Events

Tuesday, August 17th 2021, 10:39 pm
By: Barry Mangold

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission heard a presentation Tuesday from the Southwest Power Pool on how they could better prepare for extreme weather events that cause power supply shortages.

SPP, the nonprofit that manages electricity transmission in more than a dozen other states between Oklahoma and the Canadian border, said rolling blackouts became necessary in February because of a winter storm.

This is probably one of the most important issues that I've seen ever addressed by the Southwest Power Pool," chair of the OCC Dana Murphy said. "We've never had an event like this."

The February storm prompted SPP to require utility companies to perform rolling blackouts, or controlled power outages, to conserve energy. Murphy said it’s the only time the SPP has needed to act so drastically.  

The SPP presented the OCC more than 20 recommendations for the future including improvements in fuel assurance, resource planning and availability. 

SPP’s Chief Operating Officer Lanny Nickell said communication is also an area in which they hope to improve. 

"There is a general understanding that, probably, we need to do a better job of explaining how that works and why it's sometimes difficult to give hours of advanced notice” before rolling blackouts, Nickell said. 

The energy challenges during the winter storm, which spanned from Feb. 4-20, were driven by two factors, according to the report: unavailable generation and fuel, as well as high natural gas prices. 

Regulated utility companies in Oklahoma, through claims made to the OCC, reported paying more than $2 billion in additional costs for natural gas during the storm. 

Those costs will be forwarded onto customers at some point, Murphy said, but the exact amount and the length of time over which it will be dispersed will be determined in the coming months. 

Because there is no federal price cap for natural gas, Murphy said the additional costs were able to soar above normal levels. 

“I think it’s time for (the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) to look at, when emergency situations arise, is it appropriate to set a cap on the price of natural gas,” Murphy said.