Update 6/14/22: Answers to your questions
Many members have expressed confusion over the timing of this energy crunch. After all, we’ve had summers much hotter than this, and the power never stopped flowing. So what’s different now?
The issue isn’t that the demand for electricity is so much higher than before. The issue is the supply. When you turn something on, a power plant somewhere has to generate the electricity and send it to you. Most of the time this isn’t a problem. On the hottest days with the highest demands for electricity, power plants ramp up production and send the extra power wherever its needed.
Over the last few years, that has changed. There are fewer power plants with the flexibility to scale up or down based on the demand, which means it’s much more difficult to produce enough electricity when the demand is extremely high.
This is why we need your help. Making small changes like turning off lights and bumping the thermostat a few degrees is a great place to start. Shifting your usage to earlier in the day or later at night will help, too. A few homes making changes won’t do much, but when twenty thousand REMC members all work together, we can make a huge difference!
If only it were that easy. Most of us have lived our lives as if there was an unlimited supply of electricity. The truth is that electricity has to be produced, just like food and clothing and everything else we consume. Clark County REMC doesn’t actually generate any electricity. We are only in charge of delivering it to you. We are the UPS of the electric grid. You ask for it. We go get it and bring it to you, safely and reliably.
REMC is ready to deliver as much electricity to you as you need, but we can only deliver what’s being produced. There are hundreds of power plants in the Midwest, but our nation is at the beginning of a transition from traditional power sources to renewable energy. Those new sources are clean and have many benefits, but they’re not perfect. We can’t turn up the sun, and we can’t make the wind blow any faster. So when you need more power, it’s not as easy to ramp up production as it used to be.
This is a national issue and will affect everyone in the country, especially those of us in the Midwest. We’ve known this was coming for a long time, and have been training our employees to be ready to respond. No matter how difficult it gets, we are ready to keep our communities safe and help our members through this stressful and confusing time.
When you turn on your TV, the electricity is produced by a powerplant and delivered to you across the power lines. There is no storage tank of electricity that is slowly filled up or depleted as people need it. When you ask for power, it’s made and delivered to you, almost instantaneously. So when lots and lots of people are all asking for electricity at the same time, it puts a lot of pressure on the power plants to keep producing more and more electricity. Over the last few years, with the introduction of much more renewable electricity, it’s gotten more difficult to respond to those drastic increases in electric demand.
It’s like going to the amusement park. If everyone gets in line for the same ride at the same time, no one is going to have much fun. But if we spread out when people get in line, you don’t wait as long, and everyone gets to have fun. If we all cut back a little and try to spread out when we’re using electricity, we won’t run into as many emergencies where there is too much demand and not enough supply.
A rolling blackout is a decision to temporarily cut off power to small areas of the grid for short periods of time, to avoid a catastrophic collapse of the entire electric grid. You’ll remember millions of families lost power in Texas last year when the electric grid failed as more power was being consumed than they could generate. That’s what we want to avoid, and we have a detailed plan to keep that from happening. Here’s what it would look like if that happened at Clark County REMC:
First, REMC will start by switching our headquarters to generator power. We believe that we shouldn’t ask you to do something that we’re not willing to do ourselves. Next, we will ask our large commercial members if they are willing to do the same. One large company running off generators could prevent 200 homes from going without power during an emergency.
If we haven’t saved enough energy from our building and large commercial members, we will turn off the electricity to a small part of our territory, but only for 30 minutes. When that time is up, if the grid still needs us to cut back, we will turn the power back on for the first group, and create an outage for a second group. We will repeat that process until the emergency is over.
If we get to the point where these rolling blackouts occur, we will communicate our plans by email, social media, and text message. So please give us a call and make sure all of your information is up-to-date. We are here to help, no matter what!
If we experience an energy shortfall that is severe enough to create rolling blackouts, Clark County REMC has a plan for which areas will be disconnected. To understand how, it helps to know what’s happening behind the scenes.
The operator for the electric grid in the Midwest is called MISO. They’re responsible to making sure that all the energy being demanded by homes and businesses is supplied by power plants. If they see that there isn’t enough power being generated, they will command power suppliers to “shed load.” In other words, power suppliers need to find ways to reduce the demand so the whole grid doesn’t collapse. The power supplier for REMC members is Hoosier Energy. Hoosier will get the notification, and will instruct distribution co-ops like Clark County REMC to reduce demand by a certain amount (3 megawatts, for example). It’s now up to us to find a way to get rid of 3 megawatts.
That’s when our plan goes into action. First, we will switch our headquarters to generator power so that we aren’t contributing to the high demand (we’re all in this together!). Next we will ask large companies with generators to do the same, since one large business might consume the same electricity as 200 homes. If those steps still aren’t enough to meet our requirements (3 megawatts in this example), we will shut off power to small sections of our members, but only for 30 minutes at a time.
So how do we determine which sections to disconnect? First, we do our best to avoid community and emergency services like medical facilities, police and fire. We constantly monitor electricity demand so that we disconnect the fewest number of homes as possible. Once they’ve been off for 30 minutes, we bring their power back on and disconnect another group. We will repeat that process until the emergency is over.
These emergencies can escalate quickly, but we will do all we can to give you advance notice and keep you informed. To make sure you get our alerts, call our office and update your phone number and email address.
6/13/22: Limited Energy Supply
Temperatures are expected to be high today through Thursday. You may have seen headlines that extreme temperatures may cause power outages and rolling blackouts in the summer, but there is no need to be afraid. Clark County REMC has been preparing for this for months. We have a plan in place to get through this with as few interruptions as possible.
Most of us have lived our lives thinking that electricity is unlimited. Sure, there are power outages from time to time, but once they fix the problem, we’ve always had enough power to go around. But in reality, electricity is a limited resource. It has to be produced just like any other product. So when you’re A/C kicks on, a powerplant has to make your electricity and deliver it to you, almost instantaneously. Unfortunately, we can’t stockpile electricity to use whenever we need it. And this summer, there is a chance that there may not be enough electricity to go around.
Rolling blackouts are actually the safest way for us to manage an energy shortage. While it can be inconvenient and frustrating, it’s a tool we use to keep the electric grid from collapsing and causing widespread outages that could take days or weeks to restore.
If the time comes when members are asking for more electricity than our grid can produce:
1. REMC will start by switching our headquarters to generator power. We believe that we shouldn’t ask you to do something that we’re not willing to do ourselves.
2. Next, we will ask our large commercial members if they are willing to do the same. One large company running off of generators could prevent 200 homes from going without power during an emergency.
3. If we haven’t saved enough energy from our building and large commercial members, we will turn off the electricity to a small part of our territory, but only for 30 minutes. When that time is up, if the grid still needs us to cut back, we will turn the power back on for the first group, and create an outage for a second group. We will repeat that process until the emergency is over.
REMC will be sending out lots of communication so we can keep you informed. If we are notified that we are nearing a capacity emergency, we will give all of our members as much notice as possible so they can plan accordingly.
Most families are used to having as much power as we want, whenever we want. Unfortunately, that can’t always be the case. The best thing that any REMC member can do is cut back on your electricity usage during the most critical parts of the day, usually from 3:00 – 9:00 pm. See our list of tips below for simple ways you can help.