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    Power grid operator for Indiana sees projected capacity shortage

    June 7, 2022 - Claire Rafford


      A recent report from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) warned some Midwestern states, including Indiana, could see emergency procedures implemented this summer as extreme heat combines with a projected power capacity shortage and increased demand.

      The NERC report stated that the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), which is an independent, nonprofit organization responsible for operating the power grid across 15 U.S. states, including Indiana, was facing a capacity shortfall in the North and Central U.S., meaning there's a "high risk of energy emergencies during peak summer conditions."

      The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting increased odds of above-normal seasonal mean temperatures for most of the U.S. for June, July and August.

      Peak demand projections have increased by 1.7% across MISO since last summer, in part due to a return to normal demand trends that were previously altered by the pandemic.

      MISO will also have 2.3% less generation capacity than in the summer of 2021. The projected decreased capacity and increased demand could necessitate emergency measures.

      Could Indiana see rolling blackouts this summer?

      A MISO spokesperson told IndyStar that in order to get the required power that the agency needs to function, they will be declaring emergencies more often and relying on emergency procedures, especially on hot summer days when power use is high.

      "The reality for the zones that do not have sufficient generation to cover their load plus their required reserves is that they will have increased risk of temporary, controlled outages to maintain system reliability," Clair Moeller, MISO's president and chief operating officer, said in a written statement. "From a consumer perspective, those zones may also face higher costs to procure power when it is scarce."

      In a worst-case scenario, this capacity shortfall could cause the agency to implement rolling blackouts.

      However, that would be a last resort. It's more likely that MISO would buy power from other grid operators in real time when needed.

      NERC's assessment aligns with MISO's summer assessment report, as well as its capacity auction results.

      This information does "highlight the potential need for emergency procedures to keep the system in balance as well as the need for increased reliance on imports and more resource flexibility to reliably generate and manage the uncertainty of extreme weather," Brandon Morris, a spokesperson for MISO, said in a written statement to IndyStar.

      "Temporary, coordinated power outages are extremely rare and a last step emergency measure implemented to protect the electric grid," Morris continued. "MISO has never taken this step in Indiana. We continue to communicate with our member utilities every day to coordinate plans for any obstacle – such as extreme heat – and reliably forecast how much energy homes and businesses will need across the region."

      Utility companies respond

      AES Indiana and Duke Energy, Central Indiana's two main utility companies, detailed their plans in case of implementation of rolling blackouts.

      Kelly Young, a spokesperson for AES Indiana, which serves Indianapolis and Marion County, said in a written statement that AES Indiana has projected that it will generate enough power to meet the demand for its Central Indiana service area.

      AES Indiana has plans in place to monitor weather, schedule additional staffing and review emergency action plans in a proactive management of extreme weather.

      "It's important for everyone to have a plan in place in case of a power outage, especially if you have a special medical condition," Young said in a written statement to IndyStar. "You may contact AES Indiana to let us know of your condition and we can note it on your account. However, AES Indiana cannot guarantee you priority restoration, and you need to have a backup plan in place, such as using a generator or staying with a friend or family member."

      Angeline Protogere, spokesperson for Duke Energy, which services Hamilton County and much of Central Indiana, said rotating power outages are "always a last resort."

      "While an individual utility may have adequate supplies, MISO may have to take steps to protect the integrity of the electric grid in the region and direct utilities to reduce demand on the grid through a series of rotating, controlled power outages," Protogere said in a written statement to IndyStar.

      "For Duke Energy, how those outages would occur depends on the amount of energy demand reductions that need to made. In an event such as this, we would try to avoid controlled outages to critical facilities such as hospitals and water pumping stations."

      As the likelihood of extreme weather conditions is high going into the summer months, Duke Energy is taking precautions like planning, maintenance, monitoring weather, purchasing power from the MISO market when necessary to supplement power generation and investing in the electric grid, according to Protogere's statement.

      "It's important to note that no system is 100% reliable all of the time; things happen like weather events and unexpected equipment failure," Stephanie Hodgin, spokesperson for the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, said in a written statement. "But it's also important to note that facilities in Indiana and this region are designed, built, and maintained with severe weather and seasonal peak load requirements in mind."

      Contact IndyStar trending reporter Claire Rafford at or on Twitter @clairerafford.


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