Recently Orange County REMC was made aware there is a possibility of rolling blackouts in our region this summer. This warning was made by the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), an independent, non-profit organization that oversees our regional electric grid spanning much of the Midwest, including Indiana. They warned during peak usage we may have a shortage of electricity.
With extremely high temperatures forecasted this week, it is likely energy usage could be above normal and potentially cause an electricity shortage. If the shortage is too great, the grid system could collapse, creating wide scale outages which could last for many hours or days similar to what occurred in Texas two winters ago or in New York City several years ago.
What can we do? In a grid-wide emergency, Orange County REMC will be called upon to undertake rolling blackouts. Rolling blackouts are designed to reduce the strain on the electric grid by temporarily shutting down power across parts of the utility’s service area to avoid wide scale outages. A rolling blackout typically last 30 minutes per location before it “rolls” to the next area. We do not know exactly if or when each member will be affected by a rolling blackout. We have a plan in place that our systems engineer will manage to reduce our demand on the grid. If you have a medical condition that requires electricity, make sure you have a backup plan in the event of a large-scale blackout event.
We ask you to continue to monitor announcements from Orange County REMC’s Facebook page, we will keep you informed in the case a rolling blackout does occur. In the meantime, consider cutting back on your energy usage during peak times (typically 2-8 pm, Monday through Friday) by setting your air conditioner thermostats up a couple of degrees and putting off running dishwashers, clothes dryers, pool pumps and other non-essential electric devices during this period.
Here are references to articles of similar discussion:
The Herald-Times (Indiana may experience rolling blackouts this summer. What are they? How can you prepare?)
Indy Star (As officials project warm temps, high energy demands, could Indiana see rolling blackouts?
Politico (Spiking temperatures could cause more blackouts this summer)
Why are we concerned about power reliability?
There’s been a national trend over the past several years of retiring older coal generation and transitioning to more intermittent renewable energy. So far, the pace of additions hasn’t kept up with the retirements.
The amount of extra generation available to handle unexpected events isn’t as large as it once. As a result, we want everyone to be increasingly more aware of the possibility of requests to reduce electricity usage.
If the supply/demand problem becomes too great, our regional grid operator will order rolling blackouts.
Why are we in this situation?
There’s been a national trend over the past several years of retiring older coal generation and transitioning to more intermittent renewable energy, which is largely dependent on the weather.
So far, the pace of additions hasn’t kept up with retirements. This means that now there is less generation available to handle unexpected events on the system.
What should we do?
Orange County REMC will convey messages and requests for you to consume less energy during times when demand is high, and supply is constrained.
We ask you to turn off any unnecessary lights, appliances, etc. Perhaps use the delayed start functions on appliances to move laundry and dishwashing to a later time in the day. Setting your thermostat slightly higher this summer will also help.
Please be prepared for the possibility of more frequent outages. Power could be intentionally disconnected for periods of time to preserve integrity of the entire grid.
When should I do these things?
In general, when the temperature is excessively hot or cold outside, demand for electricity goes up. However, that’s not always the case.
Occasionally, generation and transmission facilities have to be repaired, which can also lead to supply constraints. We are working hard to make sure members are informed when these issues exist. We will continue to send messages and post on social media when these things happen.
How long will this last?
It’s impossible to predict how long this will last, but we expect the volatility and increased costs to continue for the foreseeable future, possibly the next few years. Please know that we are doing everything we can to minimize the negative impact during this time.