Wholesale energy bills rose during the storm in the central and western US, and this has drawn the attention of state and federal lawmakers and regulators who vowed not only to investigate allegations of price cuts in certain markets, but also to investigate whether climate change plays a role.
Richard Glick, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), previously announced that his agency will be investigating market manipulation issues in the wake of natural gas and electricity prices, which rose sharply during the one-day event.
SPP's storm reaction
On most days of the year, the SPP operates under normal operating conditions, when generation is ordered to meet expected demand, and has the reserves required by the federal government ready to be tapped when needed.
However, as temperatures began to drop, SPP alerted power producers, marketers, and utility companies to using resources to ensure supplies could safely meet demands.
At 5 a.m. on February 15, she declared a Level 1 energy emergency alert informing her attendees that they had allocated all available resources to meet firm load commitments and, in turn, urged them to urge their customers to use energy to save.
From then on, conditions quickly deteriorated, prompting SPP to issue level 2 and then level 3 emergency notifications on the same day. The level 3 alarm informed the participants that the RTO had to use at least part of its reserve capacity in order to maintain the flow of electricity over the network. The level 3 alarm also instructed cooperatives, utilities and other electricity providers to conduct controlled business interruptions if necessary.
Controlled breaks were ordered shortly after noon on the same day, with vendors shutting down the circuits as needed to prevent cascading errors from occurring. Most of the outages were brief, although some utility companies had to do extra work to get some customers back on track after the outages occurred.