What is a rolling outage, and why did it happen?
A rolling outage occurs when there is imbalance in the electric power grid system, and it is necessary to shut off the flow electric energy in patterns across the electric grid.
This can happen for several different reasons, including extreme weather situations, high demand for electric energy, the loss of generating plant(s) or the loss of either transmission or distribution power lines; it could also be a combination of reasons.
What happened on the night of Feb. 16, 2021?
Dixie Electric Power Association receives its electricity from Cooperative Energy, which generates and transmits wholesale power to 11 distribution cooperatives in Mississippi. Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), the regional reliability coordinator for Cooperative Energy, is responsible for maintaining the balance of the electric grid across much of the middle United States and parts of Canada. A combination of extreme cold temperatures and the loss of generating plants in neighboring states caused an imbalance in the regional system, affecting Mississippi as well as other states.
Cooperative Energy and Dixie Electric were directed by MISO to enact rolling outages to methodically reduce the electric load on the system until it could be rebalanced. The decision to enact rolling outages is not made locally and is a directive to protect the electric power grid across multiple states, hopefully preventing more extensive and prolonged outages.
All Cooperative Energy units have been running continuously and generating more electricity than was being consumed by its members; however, the loss of generating units across the southern United States placed a significant strain on the entire electric grid. The demand for electricity was at an all-time high due to bitterly cold temperatures and the winter storm. This situation was not the result of any shortage of electricity in Mississippi but came about because of issues across other southern states.
How often does this happen?
On Feb. 16, 2021, rolling outages occurred for the first time in 80 years on Dixie Electric and Cooperative Energy’s systems. A formal plan is in place for rolling outages because, as we saw with the Feb. 16 event, Dixie Electric and Cooperative Energy may receive a directive to implement outages for regional grid stability.
Why didn’t we receive notice?
As we’ve discussed, there was a critical need to balance the electric grid, which caused an immediate need to respond. The situation on the night of Feb. 16 evolved so quickly that Cooperative Energy had to initiate outages before Dixie Electric and other electric cooperatives were notified.
Ideally, members would be asked to conserve electric energy, and that rolling outages were a possibility. Unfortunately, the notice to reduce energy use and the need for rolling outages came back-to-back with little time to inform the public on Feb. 16, 2021.
As a member of Dixie Electric, what can you do to help the situation?
In extreme weather situations – hot, cold or storm related – members of Dixie Electric can conserve their energy use to help prevent rolling outages. As we’ve discussed, this may not solve all the issues, but it can be a preventive measure. Consider lowering/raising your thermostat and avoid using large appliances or electronics.