A portion of the Sidney area lies in territory that is served by the Southwest Power Pool, which on Feb. 15 declared an energy emergency for a 14-state area spanning Texas in the south to North Dakota and Montana in the north in the wake of an energy blackout that started in Texas.
“We’ll be working with our member utilities to implement controlled interruptions of electric service throughout our region,” a press release on SPP’s website states. “This is done as a last resort to preserve the reliability of the electric system as a whole. Individuals in the SPP service territory should take steps to conserve energy sue and follow their local utilities instructions regarding conservation, local conditions and the potential for outages to their homes and businesses.”
Among electric cooperatives served by SPP in the Richland County area is the Lower Yellowstone Rural Electric Cooperative, which serves parts of Richland, Roosevelt, Dawson, McKenzie and Williams County.
A call has been placed to LYREC for more information about how the energy emergency is affecting LYREC power customers. We will add any additional information about the situation to this story when received from them.
On Facebook, the company posted instructions for its customers, urging them to turn thermostats down to 68 degrees to reduce electric heat demand, and to avoid using large appliances like clothes washers, dryers, and ovens.
LYREC members are also advised to turn off and unplug any non-essential lights and appliances.
Weather forecasters have said temperatures will be returning to more normal levels by the end of the week, and LYREC officials on Facebook said they are anticipating that will ease the situation.
Montana Dakota Utilities, meanwhile, which serves other residents in Richland County, is part of the MISO transmission grid, and does not expect to implement any load reductions.
“Montana Dakota Utilities does not receive energy from SPP, and therefore is not impacted,” MDU spokesman Mark Hanson told the Sidney Herald.
The energy emergency began in the wake of extreme cold temperatures across the United States. Multiple energy sources in Texas, ranging from renewables like wind turbines to fossil fuel sources like natural gas and coal, have been frozen out.
While some media outlets were reporting that renewables were at fault, the administrators with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas said that wind output was only slightly below expectations, and that the main output shortage was from gas and coal. Gas production dropped at least 16 percent due to freeze-offs and shutdowns of processing plants, which were not weatherized for such extreme cold.
Richard Click, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Agency, meanwhile told media outlets that the causes of the energy emergency would be carefully examined going forward, and changes made to improve the system.
Nationwide, more than 4 million people have been without power as frigid Arctic air has continued to embrace a far wider territory than normal.
The cold front has extended all the way down into Texas, which rarely experiences such extreme cold, and put the lights and heat out for 3.4 million there. There have also been significant outages in Oregon, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Virginia.
Montana, and Sidney, meanwhile, have experienced record cold temperatures. Records were set Feb. 8, 11 and 12 with temperatures dipping as low as minus 37 on Feb. 8, beating a 1914 record for minus 30.