Early in the morning on Friday, Dec. 23, I received a message that I hoped to never get. Our power supplier, the Tennessee Valley Authority, was calling for ELCP Step 50. That doesn’t mean much to most people, but to those of us in the power business in this area, it was serious.

The Emergency Load Curtailment Plan is a carefully designed blueprint to reduce system demand when energy use spikes to critical levels. The early steps of the plan include shutting off lights and equipment at our offices, and later steps of the plan call for interruption of industrial plants and large commercial businesses.

This was the first time in TVA’s nearly 90-year history that the agency called for Step 50, mandatory rolling blackouts. It would be called twice in a 24-hour period.

The events of Friday and Saturday, Dec. 23 and 24, were extremely unusual.

Winter Storm Elliot brought record cold temperatures to much of the country in what the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration called a “historic arctic outbreak.” Powell Valley Electric Cooperative and TVA both saw increased demand for electricity with TVA setting a new winter record for its energy demand. In the midst of the brutally cold weather and record high energy use, TVA had multiple power
generation plants unexpectedly go offline.

The Tennessee Valley region needed more energy than could be generated. When demand exceeds supply, catastrophic damage can occur to the power grid, resulting in long-term and widespread power outages.

The quick action of Powell Valley Electric Cooperative employees protected our community and the region from large and extended power outages. Our team implemented ELCP Step 50 to reduce our system load in a controlled fashion. While this resulted in temporary power outages for nearly all of our consumers, the impacts of the event could have been far worse.

Cooperative employees sprang into action when they were called. Crews went out into extreme conditions to operate equipment and manage the situation. Their efforts minimized impact on families, businesses and critical infrastructure.

Our employees work diligently throughout the year to ensure that your
cooperative’s electric system is reliable and capable of meeting member needs — by performing scheduled maintenance and proactively upgrading system capacity. Other than a few isolated outages, the cooperative’s electric system performed well during this unprecedented weather event. The rolling blackouts that were mandated by TVA were not a result of limitations on the cooperative’s system. We know there is always room for improvement, and that is why we are working with TVA to ensure that our community has the energy we need at the moment it is needed.

We appreciate the patience and understanding of our members, and our mission will always be to provide reliable and affordable energy to our members now and into the future.

— Brad Coppock