News Bite

Midwest Threatened With Power Outages When Weather Turns Cold

In mid-Michigan on Jan. 7, temperatures dropped to a low of 8 degrees Fahrenheit. As residents turned up the head that day, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator put out what it refers to as a “max gen” warning effective. It started at 6 a.m. and lasted for eight hours.

MISO describes itself as “an independent, not-for-profit, member-based organization responsible for operating the power grid across 15 U.S. states and the Canadian province of Manitoba.”

The statement it issued on Jan. 7 — a maximum generation emergency warning — means that utility companies resources are stressed. If the warning doesn’t ease the use of electricity, the next step is to declare an emergency event, which means there is a shortage of resources. This may, in turn, result in forced outages and a higher price for electricity used during the event.

At 8 a.m. on Jan. 7, coal, natural gas and nuclear power were producing 93% of the electricity demanded within MISO’s region, with wind and solar producing less than 4%. Because wind and solar are not reliable sources of energy, there can be great large fluxes in how much of the energy is provided by those alternative sources of energy.

Two days later, on Jan. 9, the temperature was 20 degrees Fahrenheit. At 4:50 p.m. on that day, the fuel mix was 87% for coal, natural gas and nuclear power, and 12% for wind and solar.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.