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How Rolling Blackouts Tie into Load Management

Todd Carney's picture
Writer, Freelance

Todd Carney is a graduate of Harvard Law School. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Public Communications. He writes on many different aspects of energy, in particular how it...

  • Member since 2021
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  • Jul 12, 2022

Most of the news coverage this Summer regarding blackouts have focused on California and Texas, but other states are facing similar issues. The Hudson Star Observer recently detailed how Wisconsin is facing similar challenges. In order to prevent grids going down, power companies are engaging in load management. Even beyond Wisconsin, other states and countries have to take similar measures, be it Louisiana or Canada. One measure taken by companies is to have rolling blackouts, where the company takes households offline for a few hours in response to too much stress on the grid. Although this is not ideal, by alleviating the stress, it does prevent the grid from crashing.

Wisconsin has been fortunate enough to avoid any rolling blackouts so far. Interestingly, for many electric systems, several states and regions are connected to each other. Wisconsin is connected to Manitoba, Canada and Louisiana, through a system known as Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO). A system like MISO provides a more efficient distribution of energy throughout the US. These companies have people on the ground in all of these states who work like “air traffic controllers” to ensure that the systems are functional everywhere. These kinds of groups have reported that as their grids face more stress, they not only have less energy, they have issues producing more energy. 

Long-term these companies hope to engage in load management by relying more on renewable energy. But to get to that point, they have to transition away from fossil fuels, which could further stretch the grids thin, even if long-term they will allow for less stress. Conversely, traditional energy producers, such as coal companies, are complaining that as states transition to renewable energy, they do not have consistent demand for traditional energy, so these companies are forced to export most of their energy to make a profit. Then when there is increased demand and states look to these traditional energy sources, their energy is not available.

Some companies have put additional measures in place in case rolling blackouts need to occur. They make sure to notify customers as early as possible.These companies also provide clear information in terms of how the blackout occurs and the length of time. These companies are also cautioning customers to not engage in a public freakout over a potential rolling blackout, and to verify any rumors. Long-term there will need to be more concrete solutions, but for now, these measures are the best these companies can do.




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Thank Todd for the Post!
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