Elliott Reminded Us Yet Again That Our Power Grid is Imperiled
by Bob Hance on Wednesday, March 1, 2023
Winter Storm Elliott was a nightmare for millions, causing delayed flights and widespread power outages. Behind the scenes, the energy industry faced an even bigger issue threatening to bring down the power grid: a lack of energy supply.
Since last summer, we have been highlighting the growing risk of rolling blackouts in Michigan. As electric demands continue to grow and the industry continues to retire many of its workhorse power plants, the electric grid is less able to ride through extreme weather. Winter Storm Elliott was yet another warning of just how vulnerable the grid is becoming.
Winter Storm Elliott, although not particularly cold by Michigan’s standards, resulted in record energy demand and caused severe strain on the eastern power grid, particularly in parts of Tennessee and the Carolinas. Regional power grid operators called on customers to voluntarily conserve energy, and in some areas, needed to initiate rolling blackouts on Christmas Eve.
Back home in Michigan, our energy supply also was threatened due to the interconnected nature of the electric grid.
We were very close to being required by one of our grid operators to ask you to reduce your energy consumption through measures such as turning down the heat, turning off unnecessary lights, and taking other conservation measures in order to prevent rolling blackouts. Fortunately, we didn’t have to, but next time could be different.
The reality is that while our power supplier, Wolverine, has sufficient generation to meet the needs of our members, we are connected to a larger grid that is currently operating close to capacity in terms of meeting the demand for electricity. That’s why we continue to advocate for time, transmission, and technology to ensure reliability through the clean energy transition.
I wanted to share this information with you so that you can understand the current state of the grid and the challenges it is facing. If we do have to ask you to conserve electricity in a tight supply situation in the future, I hope this will provide some context and help you understand why it is important. We, as a co-op, will continue to work towards a sustainable and reliable energy future for all our members.