The events of Friday and Saturday, Dec. 23 and 24, were extremely unusual.
Winter Storm Elliot brought record cold temperatures to much of the country in what the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration called a “historic artic outbreak.” Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation and our power supplier, the Tennessee Valley Authority, all set new winter records for energy demand. Most unusually, though for the first time in its 92-year history TVA issued a call for rolling blackouts.
In the midst of the brutally cold weather and record high energy use, TVA had multiple power generation plants unexpectedly go offline. This was a serious situation. The Tennessee Valley region needed more energy than could be generated. When energy demand exceeds supply, catastrophic damage can occur to the power grid, resulting in long-term and widespread power outages.
The quick action of our cooperative employees protected our communities and the region from large and extended power outages. Our teams followed an existing, carefully engineered plan to reduce our system load in a controlled fashion. While this resulted in temporary power outages for some of our consumers, the impacts of the event could have been far worse.
Our lineworkers, system operators and engineers sprang into action when they were called upon. Crews went out into extreme conditions to operate equipment and manage the situation. Their efforts minimized the impact on families, businesses and critical infrastructure.
It’s hard to be good at something that you have never done before, and we are using this as a learning opportunity. Our cooperatives are evaluating how our teams can perform better should we be called upon to do this again.
More importantly, we are working with TVA to ensure that our communities have the energy we need at the moment it is needed.
You depend on Southwest Electric to ensure that the lights come on when you flip the switch. For some of you on Dec. 23 and 24, that didn’t happen. We take this seriously, and we ask for your grace as we learn lessons from this historic event and rebuild your confidence.