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Snow February 21st, 2021

Threat of curtailments ends for NAEC members

As this record-breaking winter system ends, North Arkansas Electric Cooperative does not anticipate being mandated to shed load through rolling power outages, or curtailments.

Regional transmission organization Midcontinent Independent System Operator placed NAEC on standby for curtailments Feb. 16 and Feb. 17, but the cooperative did not get the order to begin shedding load. However, several distribution co-ops in Arkansas and many more in surrounding states had to do so.

“I joined NAEC more than 30 years ago and have never experienced an event like the past week,” CEO Mel Coleman said. “We appreciate our members who responded to our request to limit non-essential electricity usage.”

NAEC experienced an all-time system peak of 212 megawatts Feb. 16. The previous peak was 200 megawatts.

Many factors led to the demand for electricity to surpass generation capacity. The main reason was the record-breaking below-freezing weather across multiple states. The low temperatures led to an unstable natural gas market and prevented generation facilities from operating at peak capacity or even at all.

NAEC and the 16 other distribution cooperatives in the state purchase wholesale power from Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation. The generation and transmission cooperative owns or has purchase power agreements for more than 4,200 megawatts of generation capacity. AECC must follow the orders of regional transmission organizations MISO and Southwest Power Pool. The two RTOs are mandated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to ensure reliable supplies of electricity, adequate transmission infrastructure and competitive whole electricity prices on behalf of their member utilities. MISO’s system spreads across 15 states from Louisiana to Minnesota and the Canadian province of Manitoba. SPP’s system spreads across 17 states from New Mexico to Minnesota.

“NAEC made sure our system was in the best shape possible going into this winter storm, but we have no control over the possibility of mandated curtailments or how little notice we receive to begin them,” Coleman said. “We are thankful curtailments were not required and that NAEC’s system fared well. We had a few scattered outages, including one caused by a vehicle accident, and a few areas with blinks due to load imbalances that personnel were able to resolve quickly.”

In the event of any future curtailment mandates, NAEC will attempt to notify affected members through its Facebook and Twitter accounts, and local media as soon as possible.

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