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Report: Kansas at elevated risk of blackouts this summer

A new report Thursday said Kansas is at an elevated risk of blackouts this summer.
Published: May. 19, 2022 at 4:35 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - As temperatures warm up in the months ahead, so does the risk of possible blackouts across the country.

A new report Thursday said Kansas is at an elevated risk of blackouts this summer. You may remember in February of 2021 when we had rolling blackouts to conserve energy.

If blackouts happen this year, they’ll happen on the hottest days when energy demand is highest. Those are also the days you’ll want to keep your air conditioner on.

Eyewitness News spoke with an energy expert who said power grid operators are preparing for higher demand than ever before. But even then, there’s a lot that can happen that’s out of their control.

The North American Reliance Corporation warns on the hottest days this summer, power grids might not be able to meet that demand in some areas.

“I think this is a pretty standard warning, but because of the pandemic and the war (Russian invasion of Ukraine) and inflation, there’s probably even more risk out there that’s associated with peak demand,” said Natural Resources Defense Council Senior Energy Economist Ashok Gupta.

Gupta said when peak demand can’t be met, that’s when blackouts happen. The Southwest Power Pool (SPP) predicts this summer that demand will be higher than ever before at 51.1 gigawatts.

The SPP operates the grid for Kansas and 13 other states. The summer, it said it’s prepared to serve more than 55 gigawatts, but Gupta said there’s always the possibility of the unexpected. Rolling blackouts during the February 2021 cold snap is a prime example.

“You have to build 10 to 20 percent over n case things go wrong, and even then, things go wrong,” Gupta said. “So, we pay for all of that redundancy in the system, and the best way to deal with that is by managing the demand side of the equation.”

To reduce demand and the chance of blackouts, conserving energy on peak days can make a significant difference.

“As you start adding up over a neighborhood, a second of a city, a city, and our entire service area, those collective efforts can help moderate the demand for energy,” said Every spokesperson, Gina Penzig.

Penzig said in addition to keeping the lights on, conserving energy can also help to keep your bill down.

While inflation, supply chain issues and the conflict in Ukraine could impact the grid across the country, there are other factors regionally that could impact Kansans. One of those is drought across states in the SPP. That means less energy from hydrogeneration.

The drought in Kansas also means we’ll use more energy to irrigate crops.

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