The lights went out for many South Carolinians and other consumers across the Southeast on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in 2022. As many families prepared for their holiday traditions, leaders in the electric industry were working diligently to address the likelihood of implementing planned power outages, known as rolling blackouts, as our power grid was pushed to the brink. Let’s talk about why this happened.
This incident was caused by a combination of extreme, low temperatures and a growing power supply crisis. This meant, for some, there wasn’t enough electric supply to go around.
The increasing concern and reality of generation shortfalls to support the reliability we have promised and provided our members is on the minds of your co-op’s leadership, the cooperative leadership throughout our state and cooperative leadership throughout our country. Environmental regulations regarding fossil fuel generation are creating new roadblocks and challenges as the utility industry works to plan for future electricity needs and mitigate future emergencies like we saw last Christmas.
York Electric Cooperative’s members did not experience rolling blackouts, but millions of others were not as fortunate. Our leadership team closely monitored the situation and prepared for the worst—to communicate the need for service interruption during Christmas. This conversation started before this incident and didn’t stop after we got through the near miss.
Rest assured that our generation and transmission cooperative, Central Electric Power Cooperative (CEPCI), is working to coordinate the best solution for reliable, low-cost power for members by aggregating the best prices and solutions for a diversified portfolio of power generation.
The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), a not-for-profit international regulatory authority that focuses on effective and efficient reduction of risks to the reliability and security of the power grid, reports in their 2022-2023 Winter Reliability Assessment that our area has a narrow margin of reserve electric generation supply in the event of a significant winter weather event. This could result in acquiring non-firm assets, or excess generation that may or may not be available, to make up for the lack of electric supply in the market.
Additionally, NERC reports of supply shortages in two thirds of North America if temperatures spike this summer. Although our area is at a lower risk for supply shortages, these assessments, coupled with our scare this past Christmas, show we must find a solution for the growing need for more electric generation and supply.
In response to these reports, Jim Matheson, president and chief executive officer for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), summarizes and supports the necessity for action—“America’s ability to keep the lights on has been jeopardized.”
York Electric Cooperative is a distribution cooperative, supplying power to over 68,000 homes and businesses within our service territories of York, Chester, Cherokee and Lancaster counties. Although we don’t generate power, we are connected and reliant on other utilities to provide power to us so that we can distribute it to our members.
Speaking of our members, you have the power and the ability to help reduce the demand for electricity. Look for more details next month about what we are doing and what you can do to address these concerns.
We’re in this together—here at home, throughout our state and as a country—as we work to find solutions to the growing need for electricity to power our lives.