Power interruptions put on hold

Newton appears to have missed out on the rolling blackouts…at least for the time being.

Evergy put out notice that it was suspending the emergency shutdowns of power to customers.

The company undertook planned outages Monday and Tuesday morning at behest of the Southwest Power Pool, which manages a 17-state power grid Evergy participates in. At one point Tuesday morning  at around 9 a.m., 100,000 customers were without power as part of the planned turnoffs.

“We’re hopeful that if we get through that time period, controlled outages will conclude noon or early afternoon,” Chuck Caisley, senior vice president for the utility, said. “It could be sooner . That’s completely out of our control. SPP has told us we’re in the critical time period as we speak.”

Caisley said the move is in order to reduce demand on the grid during continued subzero temperatures hammering the central part of the country. Those temperatures have increased power demand, while also hampering power production and causing equipment malfunctions. While Evergy might have enough power to supply its coverage area, other places do not.

“By having a 17-state region, the grid is a lot bigger and more stable,” he said. “It gives customers access to more electricity generally. Ninety-nine days out of 100, it’s a more reliable, cost-effective system.”
Today is not one of those days.

Caisley said the reason for the shutdowns is to prevent a large grid failure.

“The reason we’re doing these outages is to avoid what’s occurring in Texas right now where there are millions of people out six to eight hours or a 24-hour period,” he said. “The fact we’re taking these extreme measures is evidence that, of course, there’s the possibility that occurs. By taking these measures, we’re putting ourselves in a position to hopefully ride through this.”

He explained that the electric grid can be thought of as a plate balancing on a pencil. Increased demand requires increased supply. When one side becomes so out of balance – what we’re seeing with spikes in usage and supply problems – the plate can fall off the pencil.

“The grid destabilizes, and it crashes,” he said.

The emergency shutdowns, Caisley explained, were to avoid those imbalances.

Caisley said that, currently, from a practical perspective, it was nearly impossible to give a schedule or advanced notice of when a shutdown will occur.

“We have minutes to make necessary changes to grid operations and meet demand,” he said. “We don’t know when it’s going to occur. We don’t know until we’re told how much reduction we need to do.”

During that time period, the company must look for a pool of customers to shut off that meets the demand requirement and also make sure it’s not impacting critical infrastructure, such as hospitals, vaccine storage sites or natural gas pumping stations. Caisley said 15 minutes passed between the company receiving notification of reduction needs and it shutting off customers this morning.

Caisley added the company is working to keep the shut offs as short as possible, usually between 30 and 60 minutes.

As for when this process ends, he said demand is expected to begin to let off later in the week when temperatures get warmer.

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