Iowa and Illinois are in a High Risk Region for Power Blackouts

(Des Moines, IA) -- A new report puts Iowa, Illinois, and several other Midwest states at High Risk for electric blackouts this summer. The Iowa Utilities Board is asking utility companies to present plans for dealing with an increase in electric demand and a decrease in supply at a technical conference today in Des Moines.

"We're heading for a reliability crisis." Said Commissioner Mark Christie at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission meeting May 19. "It isn't the first time NERC has been warning us about this." Christie said.

"And, let's talk about the central issue that is leading to the reliability crisis. The central issue is what NERC said. I'm just going to read the quote, 'The nation's grid reliability is deteriorating because utilities are switching too rapidly from baseload power plants to intermittent renewables.'" He said.

The new report that Christie refers to by NERC, the North American Energy Reliability Corporation puts Iowa and several other states at High Risk of power blackouts this summer. Beyond the decrease in power supply suggested by Commissioner Christie, the NERC report says the region called MISO, which includes Iowa and most of Illinois is likely to have above normal temperatures and drought conditions which will drive up demand even more. The report also points out that a major transmission is line down in the region due to storm damage.

Major Iowa electric companies have provided statements in response to the High Risk NERC report, but will not comment beyond the prepared statements.

"Alliant Energy maintains a diverse energy mix of generation resources to continually deliver the energy our customers need every day, even during extreme temperatures." Melissa McCarville of Alliant Energy, reading from a company statement.

MidAmerican Energy provided a written statement to our newsroom:

While MidAmerican has been investing in renewable energy for nearly two decades, we also have been upgrading and maintaining our thermal generation units because we understand that a balanced portfolio is necessary to reliably serve our customers every minute of every hour, all year long.
We are seeing that perspective being validated by regulators and regional grid operators – because not everyone has approached the transition away from fossil fuels in the same way. That is now creating concern that there won’t always be energy available to serve all of the demands on the multistate system.
MidAmerican is part of an interconnected regional grid, but in our part of the 15-state region, the energy generated (from wind and solar energy and available from thermal facilities) is enough to serve the energy needs created by our customers. That’s where our years of thoughtful planning and preparation really pay off.
If there were to be a situation where the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) – the regional grid operator – directed utilities in our area to reduce overall load/usage, there are many actions that MidAmerican could put in place to reach those reductions before it would impact our residential customers. And MidAmerican continually evaluates and updates those contingency plans.

The National Weather Service long-range weather forecast for Iowa and Illinois this Summer (June - July - August) does point to hotter than normal temperatures and dryer conditions.

Here is the most relevant section of the NERC report for the MISO region, which includes Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, and several other Midwest states.

The following findings are NERC and the ERO Enterprise’s independent evaluation of electricity generation and transmission capacity and potential operational concerns that may need to be addressed for the 2022 summer: Summer Resource Adequacy Assessment and Energy Risk Analysis.
Midcontinent ISO (MISO) faces a capacity shortfall in its North and Central areas, resulting in high risk of energy emergencies during peak summer conditions. Capacity shortfall projections reported in the 2021 LTRA and as far back as the 2018 LTRA have continued. Load serving entities in 4 of 11 zones entered the annual planning resource auction (PRA) in April 2022 without enough owned or contracted capacity to cover their requirements.
Across MISO, peak demand projections have increased by 1.7% since last summer due in part to a return to normal demand patterns that have been altered in prior years by the pandemic. However, more impactful is the drop in capacity in the most recent PRA: MISO will have 3,200 MW (2.3%) less generation capacity than in the summer of 2021.
System operators in MISO are more likely to need operating mitigations, such as load modifying resources or non-firm imports, to meet reserve requirements under normal peak summer conditions. More extreme temperatures, higher generation outages, or low wind conditions expose the MISO North and Central areas to higher risk of temporary operator-initiated load shedding to maintain system reliability.
At the start of the summer, a key transmission line connecting MISO’s northern and southern areas will be out of service. Restoration continues on a 4-mile section of 500 kV transmission line that was damaged by a tornado during severe storms on December 10, 2021. The transmission outage affects 1,000 MW of firm transfers between the Midwestern and Southern MISO system that includes parts of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The transmission line is expected to be restored at the end of June 2022.

Electric Reliability Map presented by North American Electric Reliability Corp. to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on May 19, 2022.

National Temperature Outlook Map by National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center, below.

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