Rolling blackouts could come to parts of southern Utah this summer. What about other areas?

One cooperative is alerting its customers to the possibility. Other providers aren’t expecting such measures, but the Western power grid is expected to be stressed.

(The Salt Lake Tribune) Deseret Power's Bonanza Power Plant near Vernal is the largest source of electricity for six rural electricity cooperatives. Despite having adequate resources for its customers, Deseret is advising the co-ops that Western demands on power this summer could produce rolling outages.

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A rural electricity cooperative in southern Utah is warning its customers that rolling blackouts are possible and customers may be asked to turn up their thermostats if a heat wave puts extra strain on the system.

Dan McClendon, CEO of Garkane Energy, said there is no imminent problem unique to his cooperative, which serves all or part of six Utah counties and two Arizona counties.

Garkane is one of six rural power distributors that participate in another co-op, Deseret Power, which provides electricity to these six co-ops. Deseret has told its members to prepare for the possibility of rolling outages during the hot summer months.

McClendon says Deseret has adequate resources to meet all of its co-ops’ demands, but demands elsewhere still could exceed supply across the West in an extended heat wave.

“It’s just the nature of the grid,” McClendon said.

If such stresses arise, Garkane customers will be asked to voluntarily turn up their air conditioner thermostats 5 degrees in what the co-op is calling a “High 5 alert” program. They will be notified via text message or email if an alert is needed.

Deseret Power did not return a request for comment. The other rural co-ops served by Deseret are Bridger Valley Electric, headquartered in Mountain View, Wyo.; Dixie Power, Beryl; Flowell Electric, Fillmore; Moon Lake Electric, Roosevelt; and Mount Wheeler Power, Ely, Nev.

In its 2022 Summer Reliability Assessment, the North American Electric Reliability Corp. said the Western states are at an “elevated risk” of having insufficient operating reserves in above-normal conditions.

“In the event of [a] wide-area extreme heat event,” the report said, “all U.S. assessment areas in the Western Interconnection are at risk of energy emergencies due to the limited supply of electricity available for transfer.”

That risk level is lower than the Midwest, which is said to be at “high risk” of electricity demand exceeding supply this summer. The rest of the country, the report said, is not facing that risk.

David Eskelsen, senior communications specialist for Rocky Mountain Power, said the company does not expect any rolling blackouts this summer. RMP is part of PacifiCorp, which operates in six Western states and has generation and transmission resources across the region.

LaVarr Webb, spokesman for Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, said UAMPS has not heard of any of its 50 member utilities sending out a notice that rolling blackouts might occur, and they don’t anticipate sending out a general notice to the members.

“It’s possible a problem could occur on the broader, regional grid that we’re all connected to,” Webb said. “We don’t expect that to happen but, if it does, we will be prepared to respond and help our members.”

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