Utilities Issue Conservation Appeals
By Amanda Durish Cook
CARMEL, Ind. — Record-breaking cold Wednesday and Thursday brought MISO’s eighth maximum generation event and multiple appeals for conservation from utilities in the northern portions of the RTO’s footprint.
But data on the emergency event are in short supply for now. Speaking at a Reliability Subcommittee meeting on Thursday, Director of Regional Operations Michael McMullen said it was too early for MISO to have prepared data to share. He told stakeholders the RTO will have more information at upcoming public meetings.
At the time of the RSC meeting, MISO’s maximum generation alert had expired and the RTO was operating under a maximum generation warning through the morning. (See Cold Snap Halts DER Talk as MISO Calls Max Gen Event.)
But McMullen did reveal that the grid operator was able to maintain reliability during the dangerous cold on Jan. 30.
“In that sense, it was a good operating day,” he added.
Chris Miller, of FERC‘s Office of Energy Market Regulation, thanked MISO for working to maintain reliability through the historic cold.
Temperatures across MISO Midwest were about 15 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit below average.
Gas Shortage Warnings
The cold snap brought multiple gas shortage advisories in the northern portion of the MISO footprint.
During the event, both Consumers Energy and DTE Energy issued public appeals for conservation on Jan. 30. Consumers said ratepayers should lower thermostats or risk a gas shortage. The company also asked General Motors to suspend operations at about a dozen manufacturing sites. Consumers’ gas scarcity was compounded by a recent fire at one of its natural gas compressor stations near Detroit.
“We greatly appreciate conservation efforts by all natural gas customers across Lower Michigan to assist with a supply issue on our gas distribution network. Conservation, even by gas customers served by other utilities than Consumers Energy, is making a difference. This morning, we are cautiously optimistic that our public requests to reduce gas use are having a positive effect,” Consumers posted on Facebook on Friday morning.
In a video shared on social media, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer asked all residents in the Lower Peninsula to set their thermostats to 65 degrees Fahrenheit until noon on Friday. Several businesses were also complying with the request.
In Minnesota, Xcel Energy asked its gas customers to lower thermostats to 63 degrees through Thursday in order to sustain operations. “During this extremely cold weather, we are asking our Minnesota customers to help conserve natural gas so the system can continue to operate well for our customers throughout the state,” Xcel said Wednesday.
However, Xcel later on Thursday had to interrupt gas service to about 150 customers in central Minnesota because of a constrained portion of the system that temporarily lost pressure. The company reportedly booked rooms at several nearby hotels for affected customers.
Transmission owner ITC Holdings said it had suspended all routine maintenance and put some equipment back into service. ITC Chief Operating Officer Jon Jipping said the company sent crews out a few days in advance to check equipment and said crews were “actively monitoring equipment” as the cold settled in on Jan. 30. He also said ITC remained in contact with the Michigan Public Service Commission throughout the statewide emergency. At the time, ITC — which usually imports electricity into Michigan — reported exporting about 1,500 MW, most flowing south to other MISO zones and PJM.
“The more extreme events that we have, the more normal they become for us,” ITC Michigan President Simon Whitelocke said in a phone interview with RTO Insider. “Part of our job is to plan for a system that can handle this extreme weather we’re seeing.”