EDITORIAL: Answers needed for power crisis

The Joplin Globe, Mo.
·2 min read

Feb. 18—There are more questions than answers right now — and it may be a while before we know the entire story — but Missourians and others affected by this week's power outages are entitled to a thorough investigation and explanation.

The outages were the result of an emergency order because electricity demand exceeded available generation earlier this week in parts of the Midwest, and the Southwest Power Pool said it had exhausted reserves, citing extremely cold weather. The directive applied to all members of the SPP, including Joplin-based Liberty.

"In our history as a grid operator, this is an unprecedented event and marks the first time SPP has ever had to call for controlled interruptions of service," Larry Nickell, SPP's executive vice president and chief operating officer, said in a statement. "It's a last resort that we understand puts a burden on our member utilities and the customers they serve, but it's a step we are consciously taking to prevent circumstances from getting worse, which could result in uncontrolled outages of even greater magnitude."

We welcome the news that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corp. will work with utilities, states and other federal agencies to determine just what happened.

We also know there was a rush to judgment early — blame renewables — but there is evidence that coal, gas and nuclear sites also were affected by the weather in what looks like a systemic failure.

Yes, this was an extreme weather event, but it was not the first time temperatures have been down this low for us, nor will it be the last. But it needs to be the last time that we resort to these rolling outages to keep everyone alive. Although they were relatively short and presented for many homeowners only a minor inconvenience, businesses and large power users can suffer severe expenses when knocked out of operation even briefly.

Ryan Silvey, chairman of the Missouri Public Service Commission, told us they will review the findings of these investigations and studies to determine if there is something more they need to do as regulators of investor-owned utilities.

Power systems are complex. Weather systems are complex. There will no quick and easy answers, and probably no simple fixes.

Yet we await answers.

And we await reassurance this won't happen again.