Evergy says Kansas City-area customers should anticipate a third straight day of intermittent, planned power outages Wednesday as the power grid in the central U.S. remains under strain due to the extreme cold.
In a message to customers Tuesday night, Evergy said Southwest Power Pool, which coordinates power grids over 17 states from the Canadian border to the Texas panhandle, had once again raised its emergency alert level.
That puts Evergy “on standby” to institute more planned outages in its service territory in order to avoid wider, longer lasting blackouts in the region.
“Current conditions make additional controlled, temporary emergency electricity reductions a strong possibility from around midnight through 11 am Wednesday morning,” Evergy’s message said.
About 270,000 customers impacted Tuesday
- Evergy says about 270,000 customers in its service area went without power at some point Tuesday, including in both Kansas and Missouri.
- It’s unclear how many of those customers were in Johnson County. At one point Tuesday morning, Evergy’s outage map listed more than 27,000 Johnson County customers without power.
- Nearly all customers’ power had been restored as of Wednesday morning, though some readers told the Shawnee Mission Post their outages Tuesday lasted for three to four hours or longer.
When more outages could happen
- Evergy says peak demand on most days is late morning, between 8 and 10 a.m. As a result, Evergy says it’s a “strong possibility” that more outages could be initiated before 11 a.m. Wednesday.
- Outages on Tuesday began abruptly at around 7 a.m. and continued until just after 10 a.m. (though some customers reported having power off until mid- to late afternoon.)
- Evergy Senior Vice President Chuck Caisley said in a virtual press conference Tuesday that the utility got a 15-minute warning from Southwest Power Pool to start outages before 7 a.m., making it “practically impossible” to warn customers when and where outages would occur.
Where outages may occur (and not occur)
- If you experienced an outage Monday or Tuesday, Caisley said, you “figuratively go to the bottom of the list” for future outages. So, it’s unlikely — but not totally impossible — that you will be part of another outage today if they are instituted.
- Caisley said choices on which parts of their service territory to take out are made quickly and with a mind towards “balancing” the entire system. So, it’s unlikely we’ll know where exactly in Johnson County outages will happen before they happen.
- Caisley said the utility tries not to focus outages in one geographic area but spread out smaller outages over a wider swath of territory in both Kansas and Missouri. He said Evergy does intentionally try to avoid taking out “critical infrastructure,” including hospitals and facilities storing COVID-19 vaccines.
Why this is happening
- Caisley said the unprecedented cold this week — with sub-zero temperatures and wind chills plummeting to -30 in some parts of Evergy’s territory — has put strain on the region’s power grid.
- The extreme cold has frozen some wind turbines in western Kansas, leading to a reduction in wind power, a major part of Evergy’s portfolio.
- It’s also literally frozen coal, which is stored outside, making it more difficult for coal-burning power plants to generate their normal amount of energy.
- Natural gas plants have also had trouble operating in the bitter cold, and there have been reports that natural gas wells have been freezing.
Customers still asked to conserve energy
- We’re well-versed in this by now, but Evergy customers are still being asked to conserve energy at home to try to reduce strain on the overall system.
- That includes keeping your thermostat set to between 65 and 68.
- Avoid using space heaters.
- Limit the use of large appliances such as washers and dryers.
- Turn off appliances and lights that aren’t in use.
- Close blinds and shades to cut down the amount of heat lost through windows.