With forecasters predicting a warmer than usual summer, power utilities and regulators have warned that forced blackouts and higher prices could be expected for some customers in the upper Midwest in the coming months.
Electricity companies large and small across Minnesota say they are prepared for potential challenges this summer, including the potential for a halt after North American Electric Reliability Corp. and the region’s power grid operator warned that production capacity is at a standstill. Demand may fall short of this summer’s hottest days. , Higher-than-normal temperatures expected in the Upper Midwest, along with historic droughts, will contribute to stress.
“I’d rather be prepared and not need, not be ready and need this, so we are trying to inform our customers in advance,” said Vernell Roberts with Detroit Lake Public Utilities. 17,000 subscribers in the summer. “We are not trying to raise any kind of alarm or anything like that. But we want customers to know.”
Electric utilities in Minnesota and parts of the Dakota are part of a regional power grid operator extending from the Canadian province of Manitoba to Louisiana called the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, or MISO. Providers throughout the system work together to manage energy production and consumption to ensure a steady supply and the best possible price to serve 42 million people.
Julie Pierce, vice president of strategy and planning for Minnesota Power, a northeastern Minnesota utility that serves 145,000 customers, compares MISO to an air-traffic controller for the area, and local utilities preparing to chip in. although they must grid be put under extreme pressure. This summer as millions of people crank up their air conditioning to fight the sweltering heat, utilities plan to coordinate to produce more electricity and cut consumption where they can.
The challenge isn’t just because of the heat. MISO said in its summer outlook that it could potentially expect 124 gigawatts of load, or power demand, with 119 gigawatts available for power generation on a regular basis. To avoid blackouts or grid failure, MISO spokesman Brandon Morris said operators would have to rely more on emergency procedures. Already this week MISO has issued capacity advisories and hot weather alerts for utilities across the grid.
“We’ve been seeing this trend for the past few years, but this year’s summer evaluations and capacity auctions reflect the potential for the most difficult conditions we’ve ever experienced,” Morris said in a statement. “The overall stability and reliability of the system will not be compromised, as MISO will continue to implement any action necessary to prevent uncontrolled, cascading outages.”
Pierce said there are several steps providers can take before the blackout peaks, including giving major industrial consumers the opportunity to shut down operations to avoid the high rates that come with rising electricity demand. Roberts said his utility is identifying industrial customers in Detroit Lakes to do so.
Industry analysts say as electricity providers retire gas and nuclear power plants on the MISO footprint and replace them with more renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, the grid has experienced disruptions. In a recent report, energy investment research firm BTU Analytics said the retirement of older plants contributed to a reduction in MISO’s footprint.
However, more renewable replacements are on the way. Pierce said the improvement in reliability is also a matter of improving and expanding transmission lines and power storage.
“You need more infrastructure to support the renewable energy being put on the system, maybe its bottom line. And without that, you’re going to see big swings,” Pierce said. The reason is not. This is because of the energy transformation that is happening in the United States right now. ,