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Executive Tells Oklahoma Regulators Southwest Power Pool Is Reviewing Winter Storm Response

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An executive at the Southwest Power Pool told state regulators on Thursday they are conducting a comprehensive review of their response to Feburary’s winter storms, which included rolling blackouts for thousands of Oklahomans during subzero temperatures.

SPP Executive Vice President and COO Lanny Nickell told the Oklahoma Corporation Commission they started alerting power plants about cold weather on Feb. 4, and things were looking OK until Feb. 15. Nearly 6,000 megawatts of power imported from outside SPP helped meet demand.

"A little after about 10 o’clock in the morning, it dropped off rapidly. This is something that’s hard to predict. Your neighbors don’t always call you and say, 'Hey, within an hour or two, expect us to experience a situation where we need to reduce our exports to you,'" Nickell said.

That forced controlled outages to keep the grid from failing. Nickell said just two-thirds of SPP's expected generating capacity was available overall, with natural gas generating at half of expected capacity. In Oklahoma, those numbers were even lower. 

"I don’t want to blame gas, I don’t want to blame coal and I don’t want to blame wind. But I do think we need to better understand how it operates, and this just indicates how it operates during certain times of the year," Nickell said.

Utilities serving Oklahoma made up a significant portion of SPP's total service interruptions Feb. 15 and 16, with Oklahoma Gas and Electric accounting for 12% of reduced load on the grid and the entity including PSO taking nearly 17%. Nickell told the corporation commission power reductions were based on energy consumption the previous winter. That's something SPP will look at as part of its review.

"Is that the right approach? Is it the best approach? I mean, I know some of our members have already asked for a more precise and surgical approach, and it could be based on something other than last year’s load. It could be based more on what was going on at that time," Nickell said.

SPP expects to issue a report in July.

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