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Unprecedented winter storm

Chris Meyers
General Manager
Oklahoma Association of
Electric Cooperatives

In February, the state of Oklahoma was one of many states in the nation that experienced record-low temperatures that were deemed life-threatening. In fact, in Oklahoma we experienced below-freezing temperatures for nearly 12 consecutive days with the lowest temperature recorded at -22 F and wind chills that dropped to as low as -36 F, according to the Oklahoma Mesonet. These extreme weather conditions provided unforeseen challenges to the electric utility industry. 

Due to historically frigid temperatures, demand for electricity rose significantly and power supply in some cases was not sufficient to fulfill the rising demand for electric power. For Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives, two of our three generation and transmission electric cooperatives are part of the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), a regional transmission organization that ensures reliable supplies of power, adequate transmission infrastructure and competitive wholesale electricity prices in a 14-state footprint. 

For the first time in its history, the SPP declared energy emergency alerts levels 2 and 3. There are three levels to an energy emergency alert, and the SPP called for all three levels during this winter event. Level 1 signaled SPP’s available resources were scheduled to meet load but could foresee issues to maintain contingency reserves; Level 2 signaled the grid could no longer meet expected energy requirements without the utilization of reserves or assistance from neighboring utility operators; and ultimately, Level 3 signaled operating reserves were below the required minimum, causing SPP to direct member-utilities to implement coordinated interruptions of service twice, which are controlled, temporary outages. 

These energy emergency declarations were followed by an appeal to consumers to conserve energy as best and as safely as they could by implementing measures such as lowering thermostats, putting off the use of larger appliances, minimizing lighting and unplugging appliances or devices not in use. Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives urged members to conserve energy and we were grateful for the membership’s response across the state. With your efforts, our co-ops were able to minimize the impact of these coordinated interruptions of service as much as possible. 

These unprecedented events will cause electric utilities to collaborate even further to identify lessons learned and forge the way for improvements during extreme weather events. One other challenge that emerged from this event was the exponential increase of natural gas prices. Despite significantly higher costs, electric utilities still had to secure natural gas to ensure adequate power supply to their consumers. In the next few months, these high-priced fuel sales could be translated into higher electric bills, although it is difficult right now to determine the exact impact of rising fuel costs. What is certain is that your electric cooperative has a responsibility to you, their valued member, to work diligently on your behalf to deliver safe, affordable and reliable power. We will get through this together. OKL Article End

Making safety a priority

Brent Bacon
President
Oklahoma Association of
Electric Cooperatives

There is an old safety saying that rings true no matter the occasion—“Safety doesn’t happen by accident.” 

Your local rural electric cooperative intentionally works each day to make safety a priority. From the lineworkers who are diligently focused to ensure you have reliable power to the leadership making decisions to effectively serve you, the member, your co-op always places safety first. 

The Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives Safety and Loss Control Department administers nearly 20 safety courses and programs throughout the year for co-op personnel. This team also distributes a comprehensive safety manual created by a cooperative committee, making it safer for all Oklahoma co-ops to work together when the need arises. 

We all want the same spirit of dedication for those we care about and for our communities. In our day-to-day lives we face choices all the time that impact our well-being and that of those around us. 

A simple rule for considering utility lines at your home is to look up and look below. For example, if you’re working with tall ladders, cleaning gutters, trimming trees, or undertaking other projects outside, we remind you to look up for and stay safely away from overhead power lines, especially those connected to your home. 

If a project involves digging, be sure to call OKIE 811 a few working days in advance to get underground utilities marked. Even common projects like planting trees and shrubs or installing fences and mailboxes can interfere with an underground utility line. 

Plan to make this call a few days ahead of beginning your project. The process is simple. You can call 8-1-1 or complete an online form at call811.org to receive your work ticket. You will need to know the address where you plan to dig, including the county and nearest cross street, as well as the type of project you’re completing and the exact location on the property where you’re planning to dig. 

Remember, your local rural electric cooperative is a trusted partner and resource for you. If you have any questions, give your co-op a call and let them help you make safety a priority. OKL Article End