Energy alerts impact central and western Iowa
From Iowa Lakes Electric
Utilities across the Midwest,
including Corn Belt Power
Cooperative, Iowa Lakes Electric
Cooperative’s wholesale power
supplier, was called upon to implement
load curtailment measures to
some meters on Feb. 15 and 16.
Corn Belt Power is a member of
a regional transmission organization
(RTO) known as Southwest
Power Pool (SPP). The events of
this week were unprecedented
as extreme and prolonged arctic
weather significantly impacted the
RTO’s 14-state footprint, stretching
from Canada to northern
Texas. Regional power supply energy
emergency alert declarations
were proclaimed as unprecedented
and historic energy demand was
placed on the system.
Many electric utilities across the
country are members of one of
nine RTOs and independent system
operators (ISOs), also referred
to as power pools. These federally
regulated entities work on a regional
scale to coordinate, control,
and monitor supply and demand
on the electric grid. RTOs do not
own the power grid, but they do
work as “air-traffic controllers” of
the grid to ensure reliable supplies
of power, adequate transmission
infrastructure and competitive
wholesale electricity prices on behalf
of their members.
SPP issued Energy Emergency
Alert (EEA) Level 2 and Level
3 orders to its member utilities
across several states on Monday
through Wednesday, calling for
high levels of electric load reduction/
curtailment to match available
supply. To put it simply, there was
not enough available generation/
supply to meet this exceptionally high electric demand. This is the first time in its 80-year history SPP issued an EEA Level 2 or Level 3 warning.
Corn Belt Power’s times of curtailment included:
On Monday, Feb. 15 @ 12:15 p.m., SPP called for Corn Belt Power to curtail 5 megawatts of load for approximately 45 minutes. Of the approximately 1,500 accounts who lost power throughout the Corn Belt Power system, 279 were member-owners from Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative lasting 33 minutes.
On Tuesday, Feb 16 between 6:45-10:15 a.m., SPP called for Corn Belt Power to curtail 24 megawatts of load. Of the approximately 12,500 accounts who lost power throughout the Corn Belt system, 3,392 were member-owners of Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative. Of the seven substations Corn Belt Power de-energized, all but one was re-energized in just over one hour. There was a switch failure in one of the seven substations that kept the substation offline for just over two hours.
These outages referred to as rolling blackouts, occurred without much advanced warning as SPP manages electric supply and demand minute-by-minute in real time. Corn Belt Power Cooperative had minutes to shed specific electric load levels as they complied with Level 3 orders.
Outages and load curtailment measures are necessary to protect the entire SPP power grid. If electric generation cannot keep up with electric demand, grid reliability can be severely compromised. In this worst-case scenario, power plants across the SPP footprint are at risk of cascading outages that would leave tens of thousands of electric member-owners in the dark for hours, possibly even days. Thanks to the efforts of Corn Belt Power, as well as several other utilities across the SPP footprint, the electric grid experienced only minor levels of service disruption.
Corn Belt Power collaborated with its member cooperatives as well as state and regional partners to react and respond to the ever-changing EEA alerts impacting central and western Iowa. In addition, electric member-owners are continuing to be encouraged to practice energy conservation measures such as turning down thermostats, covering drafty windows, avoiding use of large appliances like clothes washers, dryers, and ovens especially during times of peak demand such as early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
As our cooperative emerges from this week and begins to experience decreased strain on the system due to warming temps and more moderate weather forecasts, it is anticipated that there will be less demand from generation resources.