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SPP implements rolling blackouts to cope with high power demand from winter blast


Day-ahead real-time tops $3,000/MWh

SPP's first time for rolling blackouts

Houston — Southwest Power Pool began calling on utilities in its balancing authority area to implement rolling blackouts around noon CT Feb. 15 to avoid an uncontrolled blackout that could result from demand exceeding supply due to extreme winter conditions.

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The effect on the power market, such as real-time prices, could not be assessed around 1 pm CT (1900 GMT) Feb. 15, because attempts to access the SPP website were unsuccessful.

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On Feb. 14, SPP South Hub day-ahead on-peak locational marginal prices for Feb. 15 delivery averaged $3,360.72, up from $196.78/MWh for delivery Feb. 12.

"In our history as a grid operator, this is an unprecedented event and marks the first time SPP has ever had to call for controlled interruptions of service," said SPP's Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Lanny Nickell. "It's a last resort that we understand puts a burden on our member utilities and the customers they serve, but it's a step we're consciously taking to prevent circumstances from getting worse, which could result in uncontrolled outages of even greater magnitude."

SPP declared a period of conservative operations for its balancing authority area on Feb. 9. Such a declaration advises member utilities to minimize activities, such as scheduled non-emergency generation and transmission, that could exacerbate conditions as they worsen.

A "balancing authority" maintains the balance between instantaneous power demand and supply within its jurisdiction. SPP's balancing authority extends from parts of Louisiana, New Mexico and Texas in the South to parts of North Dakota and Montana in the North.

The "conservative operations" declaration escalated to an Energy Emergency Alert Level 1 effective 5 pm CT on Feb. 14, which signals that the system may be unable to meet required contingency reserves. At 7:22 am on Feb. 15, SPP declared an EEA Level 2, which requires SPP to direct member companies to appeal to the public to conserve energy.

The rolling blackout implementation was part of the EEA Level 3 protocol.