[Updated]– Entergy Arkansas customers are asked to voluntarily reduce their electricity usage, especially between 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. today.
This unusual request is due to the demand for electricity potentially exceeding the available generation because of extreme cold and weather conditions currently impacting the service territory. Current load forecasts are approaching an all-time peak, even greater than those experienced during the polar vortex of January 2019.
The company’s reliability coordinator, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, has made this request to Entergy and other utilities in its footprint, including other utilities in our area. If the power supply cannot meet the demand, then periodic power outages would be needed to prevent an extensive power outage that could last an extended period.
Entergy crews have taken proactive steps to mitigate the impact of the extreme cold to our system, including placing additional power generation into service and adding additional personnel to our crews to closely monitor our facilities.
“We apologize for any inconvenience this request may cause, but the extreme temperatures for consecutive days are driving up electricity usage,” said Kurt Castleberry, director of Entergy Arkansas’ market operations. “This is an unusual situation driven by extreme weather conditions much of the country is experiencing. We are working to respond and bring the electric system back to a normal operational state as soon as possible.”
Castleberry added that the request does not apply to elderly customers or those with special health concerns.
MISO comprises a pool of electricity generators and users that stretches from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. As reliability coordinator, MISO is responsible for monitoring the portion of the electric grid it oversees and providing instructions to its members regarding actions needed to maintain reliability in that portion of the grid.
To balance the demand for power with available supply, Entergy has special agreements in place with some industrial and wholesale customers that allow for power curtailments during conditions in which such curtailments are needed to help maintain reliability. Some immediate ways residential customers can reduce electricity usage include:
- Lower the central thermostat to 68 degrees and adjust window units accordingly.
- Use energy-efficient ceiling fans and portable fans to circulate the warm air to help with your comfort.
- Open blinds, drapes and curtains to let in warmth from the sun.
- Delay laundry, washing dishes, bathing and other non-essential uses of electricity until this appeal for conservation has ended.
- Wash clothes with cold water, cook foods at the lowest possible setting and refrain from opening the oven door while baking.
- Don’t allow warmed air to escape from the home.
Entergy has been a member of MISO, one of the nation’s largest regional transmission organizations, since December 2013. MISO is a not-for-profit member-based organization that ensures reliable, cost-effective delivery of electricity across all or parts of 15 U.S. states and one Canadian province. In cooperation with stakeholders, MISO manages approximately 65,000 miles of high-voltage transmission and 200,000 megawatts of power-generating resources across its footprint. Being a part of MISO allows Entergy to better coordinate and optimize generation, transmission and gas across MISO’s entire region and the United States.
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Arkansas’ first big winter storm stresses power grid; utilities ask consumers to conserve energy use
BCN Staff – Feb. 15, 2021 — As Arkansas is expecting more than a foot of snow in the first winter storm of 2021, Entergy Arkansas and other electricity providers are urging consumers to lower their thermostat and conserve energy to lessen the load on the region’s power grid.
According to Entergy Arkansas, which serves more than 700,000 customers across 63 of Arkansas’ 75 counties, nearly 1,600 customers remained without power Sunday evening after about 7,000 were disrupted earlier in the day as winter weather blew across the state. Forecasts call for even more extreme temperatures, sleet, and snow this week, with an unprecedented demand for electricity likely.
“The current load forecasts are approaching an all-time winter peak, even greater than those experienced during the polar vortex of January 2019,” said Michael Considine, vice president of customer service. “This high demand for electricity poses unique obstacles when crews work to restore electricity when the power goes out.”
Entergy Arkansas, which is a subsidiary of New Orleans-based Entergy Corp., said colder than normal temperatures during the early morning and overnight hours can prompt many customers to increase the heat used in their homes and therefore the demand. This power surge, company officials said, can cause voltage variations and repeated power disruptions.
If customers lose electricity, they can help with restore times by turning off major appliances and heating units. Once power is restored, customers should gradually power on appliances and heating systems to prevent a high level of instantaneous demand.
Once power is lost, Entergy Arkansas also has procedures it must follow to prevent further damage to weather-ravaged equipment, which can affect when in the process a customer will be restored. “Rather than simply energizing an entire power line all at once,” Considine said, “we must bring customers back online one section at a time to avoid damage to our system and possibly cause additional outages.”
As the extremely cold temperatures for the service area are raising the potential for generation and transmission challenges for Entergy’s operating companies and its neighboring utilities, both regional transmission organizations (RT0s) headquartered in Little Rock also issued winter warnings of their own.
Little Rock-based Southwest Power Pool’s (SPP), which oversees the bulk electric grid and wholesale power market in the central U.S. across parts of Arkansas and 14 other west-leaning U.S. states, said it has requested that all its member utilities and market conserve energy beginning at midnight central time on Monday, Feb. 15.
That energy alert will last 48 hours to mitigate the risk of more widespread and longer-lasting outages. On Feb. 9, SPP had already declared a period of conservative operations across its 564,000 square mile footprint. Then, on Feb. 14, the Little Rock grid operator issued an Energy Emergency Alert (EEA) Level 1 to be effective at 5 a.m. on Monday.
The declaration of conservative operations signaled to SPP’s member company utility operators that they should operate conservatively to mitigate the risk of worsening conditions. To bolster system reliability, SPP may require generating units to be available for upcoming operating days with notifications for commitment issued multiple days in advance. SPP took these steps in preparation for the extreme weather conditions already experienced and expected over the next couple of days.
An EEA1 signals that SPP foresees or is experiencing conditions where all available resources are scheduled to meet firm load obligations and that SPP may be unable to sustain its required contingency reserves. An EEA1 is the first of three levels of energy emergency alert. An EEA2 would be triggered if SPP could no longer meet expected energy requirements and was considered energy deficient, or if SPP foresaw or had taken actions up to but excluding the interruption of firm load obligations. At this point, SPP would have utilized available energy reserves and would have requested assistance from other neighboring utility operators.
“SPP’s analysis of current forecast data indicates that conditions may continue to tighten over the next several days because of persistent, widespread and extreme cold. We have recommended that load-serving utilities throughout our region take conservation measures to mitigate the risk of more widespread and longer-lasting outages,” said the Arkansas regional grid operator. “End-use customers in the SPP region should follow their local utilities’ instructions regarding the potential for outages, the need to conserve electricity or natural gas, and other steps to ensure their safety and the integrity of the regional grid.”
SPP said it is coordinating closely with our members and market participants to respond to high demand for electricity, inadequate supply of natural gas, and wind-forecast uncertainty among other variables.
Meanwhile, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), which coordinates the delivery of electric power across 15 U.S. states and the Canadian province of Manitoba, said sustained frigid temperatures and winter weather across its south region. contributed to the loss of generation and transmission.
This led to emergency actions in the region’s western portion to avoid a larger power outage on the bulk electric system. Periodic power outages began early Monday morning for some customers in Southeast Texas. Entergy completed the integration of its transmission system into MISO in 2013. Today, the New Orleans-based utility giant owns and operates power plants with nearly 30,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity, including nearly 9,000 MW of nuclear power. Entergy’s regulated utilities in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and New Orleans together deliver electricity to 2.9 million customers across those four states.
In 2015, Carmel, Ind.-based MISO opened a state-of-the-art command center in West Little Rock and approved a $2.7 billion expansion plan across the grid operator’s 15-state footprint, including $170 million in investments that upgraded Arkansas’ aging electricity infrastructure.
“We fully committed every available operating asset before the event to lessen the impact on our system, but conditions eventually deteriorated to a point where demand exceeded supply,” said Renuka Chatterjee, executive director of MISO’s system operations. “The accelerated change in conditions led us to our last resort in order to maintain grid reliability and we are in direct communication with our members to support their restoration efforts in the affected areas.”
MISO said it has worked with its member utilities and power providers to identify the worst-case scenarios to limit the effects of temporary power supply interruptions to those areas that will provide the most relief. That plan focused on the forecasted load demand and expert weather forecast as well as the risks associated with generation availability and transmission capacity across the region.
“This was truly a coordinated effort with all of our members to avoid a potentially larger grid outage,” said Daryl Brown, executive director MISO South region that includes Entergy Arkansas. “We are in direct communication with our members in the affected area to support their restoration efforts.”
Meanwhile, the Electric Cooperatives Corp. of Arkansas (AECC) is also asking its members to voluntarily limit the use of electricity immediately and through midnight Tuesday to ensure that service is not interrupted. The Little Rock-based rural electric group includes 17 electric distribution cooperatives that provide power to more than 500,000 members in Arkansas and surrounding states.
Like Entergy Arkansas, AECC members are urged to limit the use of non-essential electricity and appliances, especially electric water heaters, clothes dryers and dishwashers, and to turn heating thermostats to lowest settings possible.
The rural cooperative stressed that if voluntary reductions are not sufficient to maintain continuity of service, it may be necessary to begin interruption of electric service to specific areas for limited time periods. It is not presently anticipated that this type of rotating curtailments will be necessary, company officials said, adding the rural electric provider is also urging larger industrial power users to also curtail their energy use.
“The interconnections of electric systems frequently make it possible for one system to secure additional electricity from neighboring systems,” AECC said. “However, the present extreme cold weather is widespread in the Arkansas region, making the strain on the electric grid much higher than normal. Thus, conservation of energy is important to help ensure continuous electric service.”
In Little Rock, the city’s public works department is also reminding drivers that clearing of streets will take longer as little natural melting is expected due to the intense cold temperatures predicted for the coming week,
If travel isn’t necessary, city officials are urging residents in Arkansas’ largest metropolitan area to off roadways. Those motorists that must venture out onto the cold, icey roads are also asked to remain patient with crews working to clear streets as quickly and safely as possible under these difficult circumstances.
City offices will be closed on Monday in observance of George Washington’s Birthday Holiday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day. All solid waste collection routes will be delayed at least one day and crews are scheduled to work Saturday, Feb. 20 to catch up.
(BlackConsumerNews.com will update this story throughout the day.)
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