Power Outages Hot and Cold

Michael Giberson

A FuelFix post by Tom Fowler relays ERCOT’s report that the Texas grid operator expects to have enough power to serve customers reliably this summer. At the end of Fowler’s post he casually mentioned, in connection with the rolling blackout in ERCOT last winter, “a report by federal reliability officials concluded power plant operators could have done more to prepare for the cold.”

Somehow I’d missed the release of the fed’s report. Since FERC and NERC were cooperating on the report, I headed to the FERC website to see if it had been posted. At http://www.ferc.gov, however, I find a notice saying that FERC would be closed on Wednesday “due to a power outage in the vicinity where FERC Headquarters is located.”

A Washington DC-area news report indicated that the power had been out in the area since around 4 PM, likely due to high summer temperatures. (98 F was nearly 20 degrees warmer than average for May 31 and just 1 degree short of the record.)

NERC – the nation’s FERC-certified electric reliability organization – also just issued its summer reliability assessment for the nation. NERC’s CEO said, “We expect the bulk power system will be able to meet the electricity demands this summer, though we are closely monitoring the effects of storms in the Midwest and Southeast, as well as potential drought conditions.” No mention of possible trouble in DC.

The coincidence of the DC power outage and the confident NERC summer report is mildly amusing (to those of us not sweating through DC’s unseasonably warm, humid night without power), but it appears the outage was a local distribution problem and not a resource adequacy or regional transmission system issue.

Still, maybe federal reliability officials and the local power distributor should have done more to prepare for the heat in the nation’s capital?