The first time many people heard of Southwest Power Pool (SPP) was when it initiated rolling blackouts across its 14-state region in February. Southwest Power Pool (SPP) is a regional transmission organization (RTO) that manages and balances supply and demand to keep the transmission system operating within the safe limits. SPP reaches from the Canadian border with North Dakota all the way south to the northern part of Texas, spanning nearly 575,000 square miles in all covering portions of 14 states in the central U.S.
Lower Yellowstone Rural Electric Cooperative (LYREC) receives power from Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) and Basin Electric Power Cooperative (Basin Electric). Both WAPA and Basin Electric joined SPP in 2015 after seeing the advantages of being part of an RTO. The group offers more stable and competitive rates, access to increased power generation and they can sell excess power on the open market. Another advantage of being part of this group is if certain states need additional generation, SPP can shift the generation between the group, as you witnessed during the February cold snap.
The rare winter storm resulted in more than 170 million Americans being placed under winter weather alerts. This is the first time Southwest Power Pool (SPP) has declared an Energy Emergency Alert (EEA) Levels 2 or 3 for its entire region in 80 years of operations. Rolling outages were necessary to ensure the stability of the power grid to prevent the failure of the entire system due to demand strains. This action, known as load shedding, is used to relieve stress on a primary energy source when demand of electricity is greater than the primary power source can supply. A system failure would have resulted in a greater impact on many more people and lasted longer.
Basin Electric reported that its generation and transmission systems remained viable throughout the week as all of its available resources were online producing power to support and maintain the electrical grid and meet member’s load requirements. The energy emergency is a prime example of why Basin Electric believes so strongly in an all-of-the-above energy strategy. The power Basin Electric uses to serve its member load obligations comes from many different sources, including coal, renewables, natural gas, water (hydroelectricity), oil, and recovered energy. Basin Electric also purchases power from the market. Because its resource portfolio is so diverse, the co-op’s power supply is very reliable – if one source isn’t producing, there are other options available to fill in the gaps. Without all these diverse sources, the interruptions in service would have been more significant.
The rolling blackouts helped the southern states by spreading the blackouts around to stabilize the grid. Although the situation was alarming at the time, LYREC is hoping our members feel more comfortable knowing this is the first time this has happened to SPP in 80 years, and that SPP could spread load between the 14 states if we are in need of assistance.