Evergy, Southwest Power Pool, and others under investigation for reaction to extreme cold


FORT WORTH, TX – FEBRUARY 16: Pike Electric service trucks line up after a snow storm on February 16, 2021 in Fort Worth, Texas. Winter storm Uri has brought historic cold weather and power outages to Texas as storms have swept across 26 states with a mix of freezing temperatures and precipitation. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

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TOPEKA, Kan. — The Kansas Corporation Commission opened investigations into how certain utility companies handled the cold snap in February. Commissioners say the investigation will look into each utility’s plan and how the companies worked to minimize costs to customers.

The companies under investigation by the KCC are Evergy, Liberty Empire, Southern Pioneer, Kansas Gas Service, Atmos Energy, Black Hills Energy, and American Energies Gas Service.

Investigators plan to look into why the natural gas supply was reduced during that time, the high price of it and other supply and demand issues in the Southwest Power Pool.

The Kansas Corporation Commission says it wants to make sure measures are put in place to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.

Evergy released a statement Tuesday afternoon and said, “The extreme and extended cold during the polar vortex event in February had an unprecedented impact on energy supply throughout the middle of the United States. Like other utilities in the region, Evergy faced increased costs and, at the direction of the Southwest Power Pool, interrupted service to customers in order to prevent larger, uncontrolled outages. Evergy supports the KCC’s effort to examine and understand the circumstances, cost drivers and actions taken. We share their goal to examine ways to prevent similar events in the future.” 

On Feb. 16 alone, more than 270,000 Evergy customers in the Kansas City area lost power. That’s when rolling outages occurred across the Kansas City area from 7 a.m. to 10:15 a.m.

The Southwest Power Pool, the organization that controls the power grid for more than a dozen states, put Evergy and other companies under emergency orders to reduce its electricity usage.

Companies also said the Southwest Power Pool gave them a “matter of minutes” to make the necessary changes. Evergy said it used software data to select areas for the rolling outages. It helps avoid power outages in areas with hospitals and other critical businesses.

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