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With rolling blackouts possible this summer, ND PSC discusses power grid reliability

Published: May. 10, 2022 at 5:32 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. – The reliability of the electric power grid has become a huge topic after a winter storm in Texas last year caused millions of customers to be without power. On Tuesday, North Dakota’s Public Service Commissioners met with legislators on some concerns about that reliability and what they are doing to alleviate them.

Most of the utilities in North Dakota receive their power through either the Southwest Power Pool or the Midcontinent Independent System Operator. Those are the organizations in charge of the power grid, and the state’s public service commission represented both of them at Tuesday’s interim energy development and transmission committee.

Public Service Commission Chair Julie Fedorchak spoke to the committee, sharing her perspective as a member of MISO. She warned them of the potential of rolling outages this summer due to power generation being short of projections. While North Dakota utilities met their capacity needs, she says some customers on the grid could still be affected.

“When system operators do not have enough power to meet the demand, rolling outages impact everyone, even those served by utilities who had enough to cover their own needs,” said Fedorchak.

A similar issue occurred last year when a winter storm in Texas caused some parts of the Southern Power Pool to shut down. Commissioner Randy Christmann spoke to the committee about what the organization is doing to prevent that from happening again, including adding transmission.

“In a challenging time like Storm Uri, the ability to move energy around the footprint or import additional energy from a neighboring RTO is extremely valuable. However, additional transmission is enormously expensive,” said Christmann.

Christmann also added that the direction the country is pushing these organizations could add problems. The demand for clean energy comes from intermittent generation, which could be unreliable during peak times.

Both Christmann and Fedorchak tell the committee they will continue to work to help solve some of these challenges. Fedorchak will be meeting with utilities soon to relay their thoughts to the rest of MISO.

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