Experts debunk myths, explain cold-weather strain on energy sources

Published: Feb. 17, 2021 at 3:34 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Southwest Power Pool on Tuesday said we’ll likely be out of the current energy shortage by Thursday or Friday once energy generation increases with warmer temperatures. But which sources were responsible for that shortage?

Consumers and politicians are looking for answers to the energy issues that have required rolling blackouts and left millions in the dark. Some blame wind energy and even the shutdown of the Keystone Pipeline. Experts say that’s not the case.

“There was significant impact to coal and natural gas, much greater than what they forecast. That’s the problem. Those forecasts need to be predictable and accurate, and in this case, natural gas and coal missed those expectations. That led to disruptions in a greater way than they would’ve liked,” said Alan Anderson, energy law professor and Vice Chair of Polsinelli’s national Energy Practice Group.

Wind, coal and gas each produce about one third of our region’s energy, but the subfreezing temperatures across central states caused natural gas pipelines to seize up, coal to freeze and some wind turbines to stop spinning.

Southwest Power Pool Senior Vice President of Government Affairs and Public Relations Mike Ross said wind is the only source that measured up to its forecast.

“Some of these larger gas and coal units can take a day or more to get up and running,” he said. “In fact, wind has produced a little more than what we forecast.”

Whiley many have criticized wind energy since rolling blackouts began, Anderson said it’s actually helped to prevent more outages. He said right now is not the time to point fingers at specific energy sources or to turn this into a political issue.

“We do want to make sure we look at this factually, not through a political lens, just with the data that will become available,” he said.

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