Electric reliability warnings

Posted on Jul 04 2023 in Southern Indiana Power
Steve Seibert

The North American Reliability Corporation (NERC) issued a warning for the MISO region this summer followed by its highest-level alert ever given for this coming winter. This alert is letting people know that in extreme temperatures our electric generation supply simply cannot keep up with demand. If the supply/demand problem becomes too great, our regional grid operator, MISO, will order short duration rolling blackouts to preserve the operational integrity of the grid and reduce the risk of prolonged and widespread power outages. If ordered to do so, Southern Indiana Power is planning on executing this order with a rolling 30-minute outage schedule. We hope this minimizes the overall impact on our member-owners.

Balancing the demand for electricity with just-in-time supply and then transmitting the electricity over an expansive grid of transmission and distribution lines makes the U.S. electric grid the most complex machine in our nation’s history.

The national trend over the past several years has been to retire baseload coal generation and transition to more intermittent, renewable carbon-free resources. This trend is being driven by politicians, big corporations, and even the current energy markets. Transitioning to carbon-free resources for electric generation is much more complex than our political leaders claim, or quite frankly, even understand.

So far, the pace of renewable, intermittent generation additions hasn’t kept pace with the retirements of dispatchable baseload resources they will replace. As a result, we want everyone to be increasingly more aware of the possibility of requests to reduce electricity use. 

Southern Indiana Power has been sounding the alarm concerning this issue for many years now and finally, people are starting to pay attention. Co-op leaders across the country have been meeting with government officials and various media outlets trying to get them to understand the issue. 

MISO’s generation reserves are typically available for unexpected events that impact the balance of supply and demand on the system, but they aren’t as large as they once were due to baseload coal retirements. This situation increases the possibility for reductions in electricity use to prevent large-scale, grid-type power outages or failures.

Southern Indiana Power will convey messages and requests for you to consume less energy during times when demand is high and supply is constrained. We will ask you to turn off any unnecessary lights, appliances, etc. Use the delayed start functions on appliances to move laundry and dishwashing to a later time in the day. Setting your thermostat slightly higher this summer will also help. We will be working hard to make sure our member-owners are informed when these issues begin to develop. We will send press releases and execute social media posts when these things happen.

Southern Indiana Power wants to make sure that you are prepared for the possibility of short, 30-minute outages beginning as early as this summer. As I mentioned earlier, if the regional grid operator orders Southern to shed parts of our load, we must intentionally disconnect power over our system for periods of time to preserve the integrity of the entire grid.

You may ask, what can be done to remedy this issue? The answer is really quite simple. More dispatchable resources need to be added to the electric grid to balance the influx of intermittent renewables to meet the electricity demands of consumers. We also must continue to fight to keep electric reliability focused on physics and out of politics. Electric reliability in the United States should be a non-partisan issue. Southern Indiana Power will continue to advocate on your behalf, attempting to ensure that the State of Indiana and our regional grid operator, MISO, have a safe and ample supply of electric generation capacity to meet the needs of our members.