Feb. 15—Liberty on Monday had to curtail electrical demand from large industrial and commercial users and implement power shutoffs for customers to redirect energy to residences and critical sites. The Joplin-based utility also initiated what it called "a controlled interruption of service" affecting 3,600 customers, but said Monday afternoon it has begun restoration of services.
Just after 10 a.m., the grid operator for the Southwest Power Pool declared an Energy Emergency Alert Level 3, and member utilities, including Liberty, were directed to "implement controlled interruptions of service to prevent further, more widespread and uncontrolled outages."
Later in the day, the Southwest Power Pool downgraded that to Level 2, requiring SPP member utilities to issue public conservation appeals. A Level 2 alert is issued when SPP can no longer provide expected energy requirements.
Liberty on Monday extended a peak advisory issued Sunday to include energy conservation for all hours through Tuesday.
"We ask our customers to please continue to conserve energy to help minimize service interruptions," Liberty said in a statement.
Liberty officials also said: "Maintaining safe and reliable service is our top priority. Through these controlled and limited interruptions, we are working to combat the extreme weather conditions, record-breaking peak demand and fuel shortages while minimizing impact to customers. We urge our customers to continue to conserve energy to help our communities and minimize the impact of this emergency situation."
The emergency order was a result of electricity demand exceeding available generation, and the Southwest Power Pool had exhausted reserves, citing the extreme cold weather. The Level 3 directive applied to all members of the Southwest Power Pool.
The alert had been issued because of persistent and extreme cold weather and was regionwide, according to the SPP, a regional transmission organization based in Little Rock, Arkansas, that covers parts of 14 states.
"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 announcing the Level 3 directive. "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."
To help conserve energy, according to Liberty, residents should:
—Turn down thermostat setting to 65 or as low as comfortable. Customers who are elderly or have medical conditions complicated by the cold should not lower their thermostat.
—Limit the use of plug-in electric space heaters.
—Avoid using high-energy appliances like washers, dryers and dishwashers.
—Turn down the temperature setting of their water heater.
—Turn off and unplug computers, monitors, chargers, printers and televisions during periods of non-use.
—Turn off nonessential lights.
—Postpone all nonessential energy use.
The lowest emergency alert level of SPP, Level 1, signals that SPP foresees or is experiencing conditions where all available resources are scheduled to meet firm load obligations and that it may be unable to sustain its required contingency reserves.