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Topeka-area outages appear to have stopped, as Southwest Power Pool lifts call for rolling blackouts

India Yarborough
Topeka Capital-Journal
As of Tuesday morning, about 100,000 Evergy customers were without power.

After two consecutive days of rolling blackouts in the Midwest due to energy shortages stemming from extreme cold weather, outages in Kansas appear to be over.

Though Kansans escaped the more severe, longer-term outages experienced by millions of Texas residents this week, about 10% of customers serviced by Evergy — the Topeka-based utility covering parts of Kansas and Missouri — saw temporary outages Monday and Tuesday.

Evergy announced about 10:45 a.m. Tuesday that outages occurring that morning had been suspended, and those without power could expect to be back online shortly after.

The utility indicated Southwest Power Pool — the transmission company that manages energy supply in 17 central and western U.S. states — lifted its call for member utilities to implement rolling blackouts at about 10:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Though the disruptions to service have been halted, Evergy continues to ask customers to conserve electricity through Wednesday by turning thermostats a little cooler, avoiding the use of electric space heaters, closing blinds and shades to reduce the amount of heat lost through windows, turning off unnecessary lights and appliances, and delaying nonessential uses of energy.

The utility indicated in a news release that it is working with its large commercial and industrial customers to reduce energy usage this week, as well.

Due to Tuesday morning's call for rolling blackouts, close to 100,000 Evergy customers were without power as of about 9 a.m. that day.

Chuck Caisley, Evergy's senior vice president and chief customer officer, shared that information during a call with reporters Tuesday morning to update people in the utility's Kansas and Missouri service areas about rolling blackouts continuing.

On Monday, about 60,000 Evergy customers were affected by the controlled outages.

In total, Caisley said during Tuesday's call, about 10% of Evergy's customers saw some sort of disruption in service early this week. Such controlled outages were first requested by Southwest Power Pool on Monday, after it issued an "Energy Emergency Alert Level 3" and directed its member utilities to act accordingly.

Monday's coverage:Rolling blackouts hit Kansas Monday, as Southwest Power Pool issues 'Level 3' emergency alert due to stressed power grid

SPP issued a second emergency alert Tuesday morning as extreme cold temperatures continued to affect energy generation.

SPP announced Monday afternoon that energy supplied by its power grid fell about 641 megawatts short of demand that day. On Tuesday, the company expected a similar situation to occur, indicating in a 6:46 a.m. tweet that systemwide energy generating capacity had dropped below its current demand load of about 42 gigawatts "due to extremely low temperatures and inadequate supplies of natural gas."

The story continues below. 

"We’ll be working with our member utilities to implement controlled interruptions of electric service throughout our region," the company tweeted. "This is done as a last resort to preserve the reliability of the electric system as a whole."

If disruptions to service had continued Tuesday, Caisley anticipated 20-25% of Evergy's roughly 1.7 million customers could be affected. But that possibility didn't come to fruition.

He noted Tuesday was the second time in SPP's history that it has had to call on member utilities to conduct rolling blackouts — the first time being Monday.

"We're very, very much trying to avoid getting in a situation where Southwest Power Pool has a larger, longer uncontrolled outage, or a blackout," Caisley said. "That's the primary focus."