After ‘alert’ generation, regulators closely monitor electricity consumption in summer

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Last week, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, the regional power grid that includes Louisiana, Posted a “maximum generation alert”.

It’s not as scary as it sounds; the system was still a few steps away from having to impose forced shutdowns. But the alert is a reminder that, with many parts of the country experiencing record heat even before the official start of summer on Tuesday, MISO and the Louisiana Public Service Commission will have to be on their toes.

“We are preparing for a warmer than usual summer,” says David Zito, chief of staff to Civil Service Commissioner Craig Greene.

The alert serves to ensure that no one is caught unawares. Last week, MISO continued normal power exports and did not have to resort to calling all available generating units online, Zito said.

But MISO says that under typical conditions of demand and production outages, its resources may be insufficient to cover the peak load in the summer months.

“Contingency resources and non-firm energy imports will be required to maintain system reliability,” MISO says. “The need for emergency procedures will be impacted by the availability of non-firm resources.”

MISO will pay particular attention to the resources available to it and to the emergency power sources that can be brought into service if necessary. For example, MISO may ask a power plant operator to delay scheduled maintenance work.

The PSC, for its part, will monitor this process in case Commissioners need to ask the public to save energy, which could include asking users to delay some of their electricity use until at night, Zito said. Planned outages to save energy would be the last resort.

“MISO is pretty confident that, assuming everything continues to work, everything will be fine,” Zito says.

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