LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Southwest Power Pool, the company that serves 14 states as a regional transmission organization, explained today why they have issued so many utility companies to issue rolling blackouts.

During a press conference Tuesday evening, SPP Supervisor of Corporate Communications Derek Wingfield said their crews began planning for energy conservation on February 9. On February 14, SPP then issued an Energy Emergency Alert level 1, which means they anticipated dipping into reserves.

“I know that many of our consumers across the region are curious and frustrated and wondering why there wasn’t better preparation,” said Lanny Nickell, SPP executive vice president and COO.

Later that morning, SPP issued an Energy Emergency Alert level 2 asking utility members to spread the word about conserving energy. Wingfield said this is the first time this has happened. The final step was issuing an Energy Emergency Alert level 3 Monday morning.

This is a map of the SPP market

Currently, Wingfield says, the grid has reverted to an Energy Emergency Alert level 1. After Wingfield spoke, Nickell talked about how the rolling blackouts have caused confusion and frustration.

Nickell says there are 17.5 million consumers in the SPP region, and they did not want to interrupt service to that many people. He said he wishes they could let customers know in advance where they decide to do a rolling blackout, but the reason they can’t is they wait a long time to make that decision; they don’t take it lightly.

“We do not want to interrupt service,” said Nickell. “No one wants to do that. That’s a last resort we have over 17.5 million consumers within our region. We don’t want a single one of them to go without power for a single minute. We held off as long as we possibly could to make the call to interrupt service in a controlled fashion.”

“It’s possible that we could be back in this situation again later tonight. If we survive tonight without having to direct further curtailments and interruptions of service, we could be back in this tomorrow,” says Nickell.

Nickell listed the factors at play during this winter storm:

  • Fuel supply is a concern – if wind production isn’t where it needs to be, or gas supply, they have to take action
  • Neighbors have helped with excess energy
  • First time they’ve had to do this in 80 years

Mike Ross, Public Affairs at SPP, says this week is the perfect storm with record low temps causing record-high demand for electricity, low supply of natural gas, and extreme cold makes it difficult to operate. Ross anticipates the next 24-48 hours will see more fluctuations between energy needs.