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Controlled outages possible again tonight, tomorrow in Kansas City area

Posted at 3:52 PM, Feb 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-16 21:01:27-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — More controlled outages could be possible in the Kansas City area Tuesday night or Wednesday, regional power officials said.

Roughly 270,000 Evergy customers were without power for a portion of the day on Tuesday, with several unable to contact the company about the outages.

“It was truly an unprecedented amount of calls and traffic to (Evergy’s) website,” Chuck Caisley, Evergy senior vice president and chief customer officer, said.

Evergy experienced up to six times the number of calls to its call center and visits to its website than it has seen in the company’s history, according to Caisley, as the utility company implemented controlled outages for the second day in a row. Despite being fully staffed, communication with Evergy was “very difficult” for customers, he said.

The Southwest Power Pool, which coordinates the electric grid in Kansas and portions of Missouri among other states, requested that Evergy reduce its energy load by “five times the demand” as it requested on Monday.

That request caused customers to experience outages up to three hours long, according to Caisley.

“At no time during the last 48 hours has Evergy not had enough energy or enough generation (or) enough power supply to meet the demand of our customers,” Caisley said.

Two issues at SPP, according to Caisley, prompted the outages: SPP’s “reserve margin” had reached low levels and it “was experiencing transmission congestion in multiple areas” of its 14-state region.

SPP confirmed the request lasted hours in its own press call Tuesday afternoon.

SPP officials said Monday that their request was only necessary for 50 minutes. On Tuesday, however, it said the outages were needed for more than three hours to restore power reserves.

Southwest Power Pool provides energy update

As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, fewer than 5,000 Evergy customers were without power, according to the Evergy outage map.

Caisley said the remaining outages were unrelated to the controlled events.

Evergy was among the companies asked to "implement emergency power reductions" due to extreme weather conditions, according to a news release.

SPP said it allocates controlled outages in proportion to the amount of load a member company is carrying — so the more energy a company is using, the more outages SPP will request when necessary.

SPP said several factors came together to create a "perfect storm."

Chief Operating Officer Lanny Nickell said the company expects demand to increase again overnight with continued extreme cold in much of its service area.

That, combined with a multitude of factors including wind and gas supply shortages and record-high demand, could trigger another interruption in service Tuesday night or Wednesday.

The company tries to avoid outages if at all possible, CEO Barbara Sugg said.

Officials at SPP wait until the last minute possible to make the decision to institute controlled outages, she said, so they don't end up cutting power preemptively.

That can lead to short notice for the end consumer.

Nickell said SPP "will learn from this" event, the likes of which the company has never dealt with in its 80-year history.

SPP said the company "could be in and out of this kind of situation through tomorrow evening," but expects things to return to normal by Thursday or Friday.