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Timeline: How did we get to point of needing outages?

Winter Weather New Hampshire
Posted at 5:37 PM, Feb 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-16 18:37:02-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It was one week from today when power officials across the Midwest realized they needed to start planning to conserve energy.

The Southwest Power Pool, which coordinates the electric grid across 14 states in the Midwest, first alerted its member utilities, which includes Evergy, Kansas City, Kansas, Board of Public Utilities and Independence Power and Light, on Feb 9.

During a news conference Tuesday, SPP officials said the Feb. 9 notification was meant to signal to utility operators that conditions could exist that would stress the overall grid and to take steps to operate in a more conservative fashion.

Around 5 a.m. on Valentine’s Day, the SPP notified all 104 member utilities that the power grid would likely require a Level One energy emergency alert starting at 5 a.m. Monday, Feb. 15.

Around 4:30 p.m. on Valentine’s Day, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly issued a State of Disaster Emergency to help utility providers deal with record-setting cold temperatures and stress utility and natural gas providers.

Later, around 7 p.m. on Valentine’s Day night, Evergy issued a press release asking its customers to conserve power.

Roughly 12 hours later, around 7:22 a.m. on Feb., 15, the SPP moved to a Level Two energy emergency alert. This step-up in alert directed utility companies to make public conservation appeals. It was the first time in SPP’s history a Level Two alert was issued.

Less than three hours later, the SPP regional power grid found itself without reserves and electrical demand exceeding available supply.

At 10:08 a.m., on Feb. 15, the SPP issued its highest energy emergency alert, Level Three, and directed member utilities to reduce electrical demand by 641 megawatts.

RELATED: Evergy: Rolling power outages suspended for now; SPP lifts order

Less than an hour later, a combination of the reduction in overall load and fluctuations in generation capacity allowed SPP to end the controlled electrical outages, with the energy alert level returned to Level Two around 2 p.m. Monday.

But the cold conditions and tight supply of fuels continued to worsen Monday night into Tuesday morning, and as the Midwest woke up to record temperatures, the grid once again found itself without enough power to meet demand.

At 6:46 a.m. Tuesday, the SPP returned to the Level Three energy emergency alert, once again directing utility companies to reduce demand on the system.

RELATED: How do power companies decide which customers to black out?

Tuesday’s situation was more dire, as utilities were asked to reduce electrical demand by 2,700 megawatts. After nearly three hours, the power grid was balanced once again and SPP returned to a level two energy emergency alert around 11:30 a.m.

As generation capacity and reserves caught up, the SPP returned to a energy emergency alert Level One at 12:30 p.m.

In a news conference Tuesday afternoon, SPP officials said the region isn’t out of the woods yet, as at least one more night of extremely cold temperatures and tight fuel supplies continue to drive high demand and little margin in supply.