Our Christmas Present: Rolling Blackouts Amid Frigid Temps

At one point early Saturday morning, the wind-chill factor in the Piedmont Triad reached approximately -13o F.

Yet, some of us were experiencing electrical blackouts. There were high winds; but we were told that at least some of the outages were deliberately instituted “rolling” blackouts because the electrical grid was at risk in the midst of extremely high demand. Moreover, we were told that the blackouts would last 30-60 minutes; but if the utility had difficulty turning the power back on remotely, it could take a longer period of time. The outages affected large parts of the eastern United States.

Blackouts are always a nuisance. What intensifies the difficulty is that they often tend to occur when we have temperature extremes.

When he have intense cold or extreme heat, that is precisely when we want and need for our electricity to be reliable. The premise that folks should spend their Christmas holiday coping with the loss of home heating– when the temperature outside is below 20 degrees– really ought to be impermissible.

Let’s look at the potential explanations for what happened:

  1. Surging demand for power due to the cold weather
  2. Disruptions in natural gas supply because of equipment failures in the intensely frigid weather, or shortages of natural gas, or both
  3. Tree limbs breaking with high winds, disrupting power lines
  4. Insufficient base load electrical utility generating capacity
  5. Increased reliance on renewable but unreliable energy sources such as wind or solar
  6. Politicians and judges placing limits on the energy/utility sector from the standpoint of building gas pipelines; building power plants; and disadvantaging the use of fossil fuels and nuclear energy as key parts of the energy mix
  7. As I have highlighted here previously, our asinine mayor in Greensboro– Nancy Vaughan– interfering with Duke Energy’s efforts to keep the power lines free of tree limbs.

I find the explanation of surging demand for power to be unacceptable from a policy standpoint. Utilities need to have enough base load generating capacity to handle peaks in demand. With population increases, power demand also increases. Why did our utilities have insufficient reliable base load generating capacity?

Biden aggravated our energy supply situation by knocking out American exploration and development. But he also critically impacted the worldwide energy supply situation with his war on Russia.

Both Biden and Roy Cooper here in North Carolina have sought to advantage renewables like wind and solar at the expense of fossil fuels. The Republicans have played along at various times. The media reported that Cooper sternly told Duke Energy that electric power needed to be restored, but he is, in fact, part of the problem.

Natural gas is plentiful. There ought not be a problem with supply.

We really need a close examination of what happened this past weekend. There have been multiple conflicting signals. But in order to correct the situation, we need an accurate diagnosis as to the cause. It can be absolutely terrifying for the population to lose their home heating when the temperatures drop so severely.

I feel fairly certain, however, that politicians and judges are a big part of the problem. And the populace needs to demand better of them.


7 thoughts on “Our Christmas Present: Rolling Blackouts Amid Frigid Temps

  1. The TVA supplies electricity to the 88,000 square mile Tennessee Valley. Yet this area also experienced rolling blackouts. Don’t ask me why but they did. The TVA produces electricity by hydroelectric, coal/gas powered plants and nuclear .


    To an extent here is something that can be done to prevent tree limbs falling on power lines,

    In modern times there have been far more extreme temps. If using more fossil fuels would cure this problem , I say what are we waiting for ?

  2. People (like me) woke up Saturday with no power, no idea why, and no idea how long it would be out.
    Only much later in the day did Duke inform customers what they had done.
    Duke has the capability to notify every customer instantly within any given service area to let them know what was happening, why, and when service would be restored.
    They chose not to.
    Duke handled this poorly.

    1. Jaycee, yes, the communication tends to be cryptic, and I expect this is a huge challenge for a company with such a wide service territory. We tend to hardly ever really learn what causes a given outage. I am particularly interested in the “why”, because this needs to be fixed. We simply can’t have preventable outages when the temps are extreme.

  3. Will “rolling blackouts” become the “new normal” in the wake of politically favored renewables?

    “Changing people’s idea of what’s normal…we’ve seen this process before. Remember April 15, 2020, when the governors of several US states all began speaking of the “new normal” of government reordering their lives in dealing with COVID-19?”


    1. There is an even darker interpretation, Jaycee– i.e., that this is completely orchestrated and planned by forces that are not acting in our best interests.

      I have a new post about this situation this morning in case you are interested.

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