HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – The Tennessee Valley Authority had its first-ever demand-related blackouts on the mornings of December 23 and 24.
The utility requested that its power distributors, including Huntsville Utilities initiate rolling blackouts, because the utility didn’t have enough power to meet record electricity demand amid bitterly cold temperatures.
Huntsville Utilities said it also experienced peak electricity demand twice during that span, before initiating blackouts — about a half-hour per area, from around 5 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on Dec. 24.
The rolling blackouts meant no power for many residents for stretches amid single-digit temperatures. TVA issued a news release following the blackouts, saying, “We recognize the disruptive impact we had on our customers. This is not how we want to serve our customers, and we recognize we fell short of the public’s expectations to deliver reliable electricity 24/7, even under extreme conditions.”
The utility also announced it was launching an internal investigation into what happened and TVA’s actions.
TVA also says it was dealing with a once-in-a-generation storm and other utilities also had to implement rolling blackouts.
The weather went from 27 to 3 degrees overnight into Dec. 23, and as it got colder, power demand increased. Eventually, there was more demand than TVA could meet. The utility said two power plants stopped working. They were also buying power from other suppliers for a while, but as the cold shifted east, those suppliers stopped selling as well.
Newly-elected Congressman Dale Strong vowed he’d look into the problems and he spoke about his concerns on Thursday.
“I’ve been in contact with the CEO of TVA since those rolling blackouts,” Strong said during a media briefing in Huntsville. “You look at the economic development that has already transpired in North Alabama and then the economic development that is in the hopper. We’ve got to be sure that we’ve got enough energy not only for today, but also for future generations. And so those are things that concern me.”
Strong said TVA needs to take a long look at its power generation needs.
“You look at it, TVA since 2012 closed six coal-fired plants, we’ve got to be sure that we’ve got the ability to produce energy for this TVA district.”
TVA announced Thursday it has also created a panel to review its storm response and review TVA’s actions in the wake of the rolling blackouts. TVA said the panel would go over the utility’s internal report, and identify deficiencies and suggest areas of improvement.
That panel will include Joy Ditto, president of the American Public Power Association; former U.S. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Mike Howard, retired CEO of the Electric Power Research Institute.