KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Up to 100,000 Evergy customers were without power this morning, Feb. 16, as record low temperatures gripped the KC metro and much of the Great Plains.
These outages were intentional, created by Evergy at the request of the Southwest Power Pool as a way to conserve energy across a multi-state grid.
Evergy’s senior vice president and chief customer officer, Chuck Caisley, explained five main reasons why metro residents are experiencing rolling power outages on one of the coldest days in decades.
1. Coldest day
Temperatures early this morning plunged to record lows. The Kansas City International Airport recorded a new record low for this date at -9 degrees.
Caisley said temperatures got even lower at some SPP power plants, ranging from -22 to -28. The extreme cold causes more mechanisms to fail and more people to turn up the power.
2. Long cold snap
Kansas City broke another record for length of cold weather. The temperature has been below 15 degrees for the past 9 days, and it will be 10 after today. The arctic air mass has affected other regions in the power grid in similar ways as well.
With such a long cold snap, residents have used increased amounts of energy for more time. That means the SPP has not had a chance to replenish its reserves.
3. Several power plants down
Caisley said that the SPP reported several plants that went out of operation overnight, specifically in Iowa and Oklahoma. A decreased energy output means there is less power to stretch over more than a dozen states.
“[SPP] is worried about overall power supply,” Caisley said. “What can happen is the grid can destabilize and we can have blackouts, which we define as longer periods of uncontrolled and much larger outages.”
He said Evergy has noted some wind turbines that are no longer supplying power, but they are still producing a strong local supply. The issue is with the pool supply.
4. Energy ‘traffic jam’
Caisley also said there is transmission congestion, which is causing energy to move slower between plants and those in need.
“Our transmission systems are our very high-powered lines, and the way to think about those is they are very similar to highways or interstates,” Caisley said. “This morning, the SPP informed us that there was significant congestion, or essentially a traffic jam, on many parts of the transmission system.”
He said that causes problems moving electricity from where it is generated to where it is needed. Specifically, energy generated up north is flowing through the KC area down to southern parts in need.
Evergy is experiencing issues with transmission. Caisley said they are working to fix the problems.
5. The holiday is over
Presidents Day kept some people and businesses closed, using less energy. Caisley said now that some schools are back in session and businesses are back open, there is higher energy demand.
“This morning, we’re back to a normal operations footing on top of being the coldest day we’ve experienced so far,” he said.