East River Electric Power Cooperative, its power suppliers Basin Electric Power Cooperative and the Western Area Power Administration, along with other utility groups in our region joined the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) in 2015. Before joining SPP, Basin Electric, the Western Area Power Administration and Heartland Consumers Power District worked together to own and operate the bulk transmission grid. There were some benefits and downfalls to operating a standalone grid.
The decision to join the Southwest Power Pool was discussed and studied extensively by these utility groups for years before the systems decided to join SPP. In the end, they joined SPP because it allows these utilities to share generation and transmission resources with other utilities up and down the region in a more efficient manner and provide more reliable electricity to consumers. This decision has also brought financial benefits to consumers across the region.
Specifically for Basin Electric, the cooperative is able to sell generation into the market and East River Electric is able to see a return on transmission infrastructure. It’s led to a multi-million-dollar annual benefit to consumers in the East River footprint alone, with added financial benefits to other member cooperatives in the Basin Electric family. It means ratepayers see the benefit in the form of affordable and stable rates. East River Electric’s average wholesale rate has been stable for several years and has been reduced each of the past three years.
Details on the Southwest Power Pool
The Southwest Power Pool is a Regional Transmission Organization that balances energy generation with energy usage across 14 states from the Canadian border south to Oklahoma, New Mexico and parts of Texas. On a typical day, generation and transmission assets are used in the most efficient way possible by balancing energy generation with energy needs, allowing generation units across the SPP footprint to run and keep the grid stable at the lowest possible cost.
In the Upper Midwest, the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), the federal agency that markets power from the hydroelectric dams, is the Transmission Operator in the region. WAPA operates the bulk transmission infrastructure that delivers power from both WAPA and Basin Electric to East River Electric. East River Electric, which is a Transmission Owner in SPP, operates transmission and substation infrastructure that brings power to local member distribution systems who, in turn, deliver power to homes, farms and businesses.
Several days before we experienced an energy emergency on Feb. 16, the Southwest Power Pool began notifying utilities that forecasted cold weather in much of their service territory could lead to potential issues on the grid. SPP began asking local utilities to start asking their consumers to voluntarily conserve energy to help ease strain on the regional grid. However, because of continued cold weather from Canada to Texas, demand for electricity outpaced generation resources that were available. In an emergency situation, SPP gives WAPA notice that rolling outages are needed with little notice. Then WAPA is required to begin rolling outages which impacts the transmission and substations in East River Electric’s system. When their substations are de-energized, consumers of local member distribution systems experience a power outage. This is what happened in our region on Feb. 16. These short-term outages are needed to protect the rest of the grid from damage and potentially uncontrolled outages that take longer to repair.
Excess generation resources mandated by federal government
Consumers may wonder how a utility group could come up short on the amount of generation needed to meet electric demand. The federal government requires regional transmission organizations to keep an excess of generation in their portfolios specifically for emergency situations. In the emergency that recently occurred, a combination of unfortunate circumstances led to rolling outages. A lack of normal wind energy capacity impacted the amount of generation available. Out of about 27,000 megawatts of wind energy in the SPP portfolio, there were times when the wind towers producing electricity amounted to only around 500 megawatts of the 27,000 megawatts typically available. Natural gas power plants also had issues staying online because of delivery issues, cold weather and a tight supply. Combine those two situations with record-breaking cold weather across the entire geographic region of SPP, electric demand outpaced the generation available.
Benefits for consumers continue
Being a member of the Southwest Power Pool has created many benefits for utilities and their consumers in the region. In times of unplanned outages of generation units in any given area of SPP, they are able to access generation from another area to ensure consumers continue to have power. It has prevented outages in many instances. If a utility’s generation units are unable to run on any given day, for whatever reason (technical malfunction, transmission issues, lack of fuel supply, etc.) they are able to access generation from the Southwest Power Pool to continue the flow of electricity to their consumers. If they were a standalone utility without a shared generation and transmission grid, their consumers would experience an outage until the problem at their generation units was resolved.
Overall, being part of a Regional Transmission Organization like the Southwest Power Pool helps to keep electricity more affordable and reliable for consumers across our region.
This week’s extreme cold temperatures led to historic levels of energy demand on the U.S. power grid resulting in widespread rolling unplanned power outages throughout much of the central portion of the country. The rolling power outages in this region were linked to the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) service area.
SPP is a regional transmission organization that acts as a balancing authority for a 14-state region, meaning SPP balances electricity production and use for that entire area. This is why energy conservation in one place, for example South Dakota, can have a meaningful impact on electric reliability in another, like the panhandle of Texas.
Several wholesale power suppliers in our region are participants and transmission owners in SPP, which means that consumers from multiple utilities—including investor-owned utilities, municipals and electric cooperatives—across our region were affected by the event.
Stress on the SPP system began on the evening of Sunday, Feb. 14 when SPP initiated its tiered Energy Emergency Alert (EEA) system. The alert started at EEA Level 1 on the evening of Feb. 14, which meant that the region’s consumers were asked to conserve energy to help reduce the demands on the power grid and prevent extensive and unplanned outages.
On the morning of Monday, Feb. 15, the extreme cold temperatures continued causing excessive demands for electricity throughout SPP’s footprint. At that time, SPP cycled their alert system between EEA Level 2 and up to EEA Level 3, which meant that there wasn’t enough generation available to meet the demand for electricity. The enhanced alerts on Feb. 15 did not result in outages in our region, but they did bring outages to other parts of SPP’s footprint.
On the morning of Feb. 16, SPP again cycled to EEA Level 3 due to lack of generation to meet demand for electricity in their footprint. Through that Level 3 alert, this region’s system operator, the Western Area Power Administration, was forced to shut off power to various parts of the grid. This resulted in rolling power outages in the service areas of multiple utilities across portions of South Dakota and Minnesota as well as through the entire SPP service area. SPP returned to EEA Level 1 around 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 16. However, they expect continued excessive electricity demand and generation shortfalls through Wednesday, Feb. 17, and caution that their system may need to return to Level 3 at any point.
South Dakota Public Utilities Commission Chairman Chris Nelson joined South Dakota power providers to urge conservancy. “Unfortunately, electricity demand on the grid has outstripped supply in some areas causing unplanned outages,” said the PUC’s Nelson. “These outages are necessary to keep from compromising the entire grid. I continue to encourage South Dakotans to limit their use of electricity wherever possible so that we can restore normal operations as quickly as possible.”
Consumers can do their part by conserving the use of electricity. Tips to conserve energy include turning your thermostat down a few degrees, delaying the use of large appliances and turning off unnecessary lights. Please contact your local electric cooperative for additional ways to conserve energy.
Sioux Falls, SD – Feb. 16, 2021 – Energy grid operators are ordering utilities to implement unplanned power outages to keep the grid stable in this emergency created by widespread frigid temperatures.
Customers may experience outages for up to an hour throughout the day without notice.
South Dakota Public Utilities Commission Chairman Chris Nelson joined South Dakota power providers to urge conservancy. “Unfortunately electricity demand on the grid has outstripped supply in some areas causing unplanned outages,” said the PUC’s Nelson. “These outages are necessary to keep from compromising the entire grid. I continue to encourage South Dakotans to limit their use of electricity wherever possible so that we can restore normal operations as quickly as possible.”
The rolling blackouts are needed to prevent further, more widespread and uncontrolled outages. This is an emergency situation is quickly changing. Please do your part of conserve energy.
NorthWestern Energy, Jo Dee Black, 866-622-8081, firstname.lastname@example.org
East River Electric Power Cooperative, Chris Studer, 605-256-8016, email@example.com
South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, Leah Mohr, 605-773-3201 or 605-280-4327, firstname.lastname@example.org
Due to the current widespread and extreme cold weather conditions, the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) declared an Energy Emergency Alert (EEA) Level 3 this morning, which means that generating capacity has dropped below demand for electricity. Due to the emergency alert, East River Electric is expecting outages of up to an hour that will be on a rolling basis this morning. This is an emergency, quickly changing situation. This is a regionwide event, meaning consumers of multiple utilities are affected.
The following is a listing of updated impacts to East River’s system for Feb. 16:
6:54 a.m.: The Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), which is the Transmission Operator for our region, was directed by SPP to take an outage of about 200 megawatts.
6:57 a.m.: WAPA de-energized substations in parts of western Minnesota impacting about 2,000 members of Lyon-Lincoln Electric Cooperative and City of Tyler customers.
7:00 a.m.: WAPA de-energized substations serving Southeastern Electric customers in the Viborg, Hurley and Menno areas impacting about 2,200 consumers in that area.
7:28 a.m.: WAPA directed by SPP to de-energize another 200 megawatts, so they de-energized substations serving Sioux Valley Energy members on the east side of Sioux Falls, including Brandon – totaling about 6,300 consumers.
7:52 a.m.: WAPA restored power to the substations served from Fodness.
7:54 a.m.: Substations near the Redfield, Cresbard and Mansfield areas de-energized, affecting about 1,400 FEM Electric and Northern Electric consumers. WAPA restored power to substations in the Viborg, Hurley and Menno areas to Southeastern Electric consumers.
8:12 a.m.: WAPA restored power on the Ivanhoe substation serving Lyon-Lincoln Electric and opened breaker at Watertown, affecting 4 substations and about 1,400 Codington-Clark customers.
8:41 a.m.: WAPA restored power to the Maple Street substation in the Sioux Falls area.
9:10 a.m.: WAPA opened Letcher breakers affecting the Roswell substation in Central Electric’s area and restored power to the remaining 6 substations serving Sioux Falls.
9:45 a.m.: WAPA restored power to substations in the Redfield area affecting Northern Electric consumers.
10 a.m.: All power to the Watertown area restored by WAPA. The only outage currently on East River’s system is in the Roswell area affecting Central Electric.
10:30 a.m.: All power restored to East River’s service area.
We will continue to provide updates as they are available.
EMERGENCY POWER OUTAGE UPDATE
Due to the current widespread and extreme cold weather conditions, the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) declared an Energy Emergency Alert (EEA) Level 3 this morning, which means that generating capacity has dropped below demand for electricity. This is currently resulting in rolling outages across East River Electric’s service area. This is a regionwide event, meaning consumers of multiple utilities are affected. SPP is a regional transmission organization that oversees the bulk electric grid and wholesale power market in the central United States on behalf of a diverse group of utilities and transmission companies in 17 states. East River Electric Power Cooperative is a transmission owner in SPP, which means that all cooperative consumers in our region are affected by this event.
Due to the emergency alert, East River Electric is expecting outages of up to an hour that will be on a rolling basis this morning. This is an emergency, quickly changing situation.
The following is a listing of impacts that have occurred so far on East River’s system: The Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), which is the Transmission Operator for our region, was directed by SPP to take an outage at 7:00 a.m. this morning of about 200 megawatts. WAPA de-energized substations in parts of western Minnesota impacting about 2,000 members of Lyon-Lincoln Electric Cooperative and City of Tyler customers. Around the same time, WAPA also de-energized substations serving Southeastern Electric customers in the Viborg, Hurley and Menno areas impacting about 2,200 consumers in that area. Then at 7:30 a.m., WAPA was directed by SPP to de-energize another 200 megawatts, so they de-energized substations serving Sioux Valley Energy members on the east side of Sioux Falls – totaling about 5,700 consumers.
Substations near the Redfield, Cresbard and Mansfield areas were de-energized just before 8:00 a.m. affecting FEM Electric and Northern Electric consumers. The Viborg, Hurley and Menno areas were back on before 8:00 a.m.
The region’s utilities will continue to provide updates as they are available.