Governor Cooper requests report from Duke Energy following rolling outages during extreme cold

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Tuesday, December 27, 2022
Gov. Cooper requests report from Duke Energy following rolling outages
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Gov. Roy Cooper requests report from Duke Energy following rolling outages

Governor Roy Cooper is calling on Duke Energy to provide more information about the utility company's decision to implement rolling outages this past weekend during some of the coldest Christmas holiday weather in decades.

In a tweet Monday morning, Cooper wrote: "Duke Energy assures me NC is in the clear now. But I'm deeply concerned about people who lost power and who didn't get notice about rotating outages. Grateful for those who conserved energy. I've asked Duke for a complete report on what went wrong for changes to be made."

"When we made the difficult decision to take these temporary outages, they were done in a fairly fast order. So that work happened at a pace that didn't allow us to be as proactive in our communications as we'd typically be on other types of planned outages. This was sort of an emergent event. So I would say we did not get to communicate as well as we would like to with customers on the front end, but we did try to provide information when we could during the event. And I think there's opportunities for us there to go back and look at that and see are there other things that we can do going forward to help improve that process, just as will look at this entire event to figure out what things can be added to our plans and our processes to help either avoid this in the future or to improve that process," said Duke Energy spokesperson Jeff Brooks.

Duke Energy e-mailed customers Monday afternoon, shedding more light on the decision to institute outages.

Heavy rains in the Triangle Thursday saturated the ground, ahead of high winds Friday which let to knocked over trees and branches, causing power outages. During that time, temperatures dropped, leading to higher energy usage. Since other areas of the country were also experiencing high usage rates, Duke Energy was unable to import power from elsewhere, leading them to institute rolling outages.

"They help to protect the grid from a potentially larger and uncontrolled outage that could potentially happen if you don't manage the grid properly," said Brooks.

The bulk of outages related to the storm were addressed by Saturday, with Duke Energy sharing Monday there was no further need for rotating outages. Brooks explained the process of how specific areas are identified for such outages.

"We look for where we have pockets of electricity that we can pull from and then where do we have gaps that we need it," Brooks said.

Duke Energy used solar energy, which played a role in aiding power generation Friday during the initial wave of outages.

"We are in a time of transition. There's a lot of things like battery storage coming online very fast. But we're talking about a big system that's been built over decades, if not approaching a century at this point. So it's going to take time to transition. The climate's changing, how we use power is changing," said Dr. Christopher Galik, a Public Administration Professor at NC State.

Galik explained utility companies are focusing on diverse energy sources, including renewables.

"We had a paper actually on this just recently where we were doing some research into better planning for what's called 'winter-peaking.' It's when you have your peak events, your greatest energy consumption in the winter as opposed to when it's really hot on a summer afternoon. This is all changing too. So I think it's a matter of not only looking at these other generational sources, but also trying to do a better job planning from local to federal in how to make everything work together," Galik said.

He added customers can also play a role in reducing their own energy usage.

"Something as simple as weatherization I think is really important. Simply putting more insulation or sealing gaps," said Galik.

North Carolina's Electric Cooperatives suggested temporary measures such as delaying the use of large appliances like dishwashers and dryers, lowering your thermostat by a few degrees, and turning off unnecessary lights, can also reduce usage rates.

Shoppers stopped by Triangle home improvement stores, both in anticipation of this recent weather stretch and in response as they prepare this winter.

"With the power outages over the past few week, we have seen a high uptick in generators," noted French Ratliff, Store Manager of The Home Depot in Knightdale.

"Whenever we get a cold spell, storm's coming through, we always see people coming in for general things to stay warm, so generators are one of our biggest asks, any sort of heater-device," added Brandon Dazarm, a Department Supervisor with the Lowe's in West Raleigh.

That includes honing in on outside energy sources and efficiency.

"We make sure that we have fire pits, gas-powered, wood-powered, we have wood to burn as well," Ratliff said.

"They want to keep as little heat as escaping as possible, so what they can do to lower the heating bill, electric bill, especially in today's day and age," Dazarm added.

What are rolling blackouts?

Jeff Brooks with Duke Energy explains the reason for rotating outages, also known as rolling blackouts.

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