Power Outage FAQs

While our dispatchers make every effort to answer each call, it is not always possible - especially during large or wide-spread outages when we receive thousands of calls. That’s when our automated system is put to work. With over 20 incoming lines, the outage management system is capable of processing several calls per hour. Depending on the outage and the volume of calls we receive, the automated system provides you with information regarding the status of your outage, as well as an estimated restoration time, when that is known.

If your vehicle comes in contact with a power line while you are still in the vehicle, the electric safety foundation advises you to stay in your vehicle and call 911. Always assume any downed power line is still energized.

Before calling to report an outage: Check your home's breaker panel (and any outdoor disconnects if you are familiar with where they are) to make sure the outage is not due to a tripped breaker. Call your neighbors to see if their power is off. This will help you determine if the problem exists within your home, or on Sioux Valley Energy lines.

Sioux Valley Energy uses a safe and efficient process in getting your power back on. We give top priority to any situation that has live, downed wires or poses a threat to public safety. Typically, outages are restored in the following order:

  1. Transmission lines from power plants to substations.
  2. Main distribution/feeder lines from substations to communities.
  3. Tap lines from feeders into neighborhoods.
  4. Service lines to individual homes and businesses.

If you see a Sioux Valley Energy truck pass by without stopping, it is because work must first be performed at a nearby location before electric service can be restored to you and your neighbors. Following the outage restoration process ensures all customers have their power restored as quickly and safely as possible.

It depends upon the cause of the outage. Remember to check and make sure your power is not out because of an electrical problem inside your home, such as a tripped breaker. If your neighbor has electricity and you do not, more than likely, they are located on a different circuit than the circuit your home is on, or in some cases may even receive power from a different company.

At Sioux Valley Energy, members with special medical equipment requirements have an outage priority alert placed on their account. We attempt to contact members with this outage alert prior to interrupting power for any planned outages.

In order to be placed on Sioux Valley Energy’s Medical Necessity list, a Certification of Special Medical Needs document must be completed and certified by a medical doctor confirming that medical equipment in use at this service address requires electricity to sustain life. Many health care providers will provide you with their own document which will be accepted as well.

However, during an unexpected outage, members who have medically necessary equipment do not necessarily have their power restored first. During an outage, we restore power to the largest block of members first. This strategy provides the highest probability that members with medically necessary equipment are restored quickly. It is always a good idea to be prepared with a generator or power-pack backup if power is medically necessary.

Members with a medical necessity status are still subject to disconnection for non-payment.

Consider all fallen wires to be energized, regardless of whether or not they appear to be safe. Do not drive over them. Report the fallen power line to your cooperative immediately. If there is a fire or other sparks, call 911. Make sure your children, pets and neighbors stay away from the power line and any objects it may be touching.

You may want to consider creating an outage preparation kit that includes a portable radio, batteries, corded phone and a flashlight. Store this kit in a designated place so it is easy to find.

Improper use or installation of an electric generator can cause property damage, serious injury, or even death. Please keep safety and installation guidelines in mind when installing or using a home generator.

FAQs regarding Rolling Outages and the Southwest Power Pool

Why is our area experiencing an energy emergency?

Because of a combination of situations that have led to energy demand outpacing available generation resources.

  1. A reduced amount of wind energy generating electricity across a wide area. There has been very little wind compared to normal and some instances of icing in areas along with bitter cold weather which can cause wind towers to shut down to protect their components from damage.
  2. Tight natural gas supplies and deliveries in some parts of the region have caused natural gas-fired power plants to either shut down or not run at full capacity. There have been reports of natural gas supply chain issues in several areas.
  3. Record cold weather over the Southwest Power Pool footprint has created demand for electricity never seen before in the region. That extreme demand for electricity is putting stress on the electric grid.

What is the Southwest Power Pool and how do they operate within our utility group?

The Southwest Power Pool is a Regional Transmission Organization that balances energy generation with energy usage across 14 states from the Canadian border south to Oklahoma, New Mexico and parts of Texas. On a typical day, generation and transmission assets are used in the most efficient way possible by balancing energy generation with energy needs, allowing generation units across the SPP footprint to run and keep the grid stable at the lowest possible cost.

In the Upper Midwest, the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), the federal agency that markets power from the hydroelectric dams, is the Transmission Operator in the region. WAPA operates the larger bulk transmission infrastructure that delivers power to East River Electric. East River Electric operates transmission and substation infrastructure that brings power to local member distribution systems who, in turn, deliver power to homes, farms and businesses. In an emergency situation, SPP gives WAPA notice that rolling outages are needed with little notice. Then WAPA is required to begin rolling outages which impacts the transmission and substations in East River Electric’s system. When their substations are de-energized, consumers of local utilities experience a power outage.

Being a part of the Southwest Power Pool has created many benefits for utilities and their consumers in the region. In times of unplanned outages of generation units in an area, the Southwest Power Pool is able to access generation in another area to ensure consumers continue to have power. It has also brought financial benefits to consumers.

Why wasn’t there enough generation to meet the extra electricity demand?

The utilities involved in the Southwest Power Pool are required to carry a surplus of generation resources throughout the year over and above their historic peak electric demand so they are prepared for extreme circumstances. However, when wind resources and other generation are constrained, there is a limited amount of other generation available to serve the region’s recent record demand for electricity.

Have rolling outages ever happened in our region before?

No. This is an unprecedented event in the history of the Southwest Power Pool. Local utilities have of course dealt with outages in our area in the past due to storms, icing, wind and other natural occurrences. However, the record-setting cold weather that stretches from Canada to Texas has created energy demands never seen before on the transmission system across the entire region.

Why were consumers not given advance notice about the rolling outages?

The rolling outages were an emergency action that the Southwest Power Pool worked for the past couple of days to prevent. Starting on Sunday, Feb. 14, and continuing on Monday, Feb. 15, SPP asked member utilities to begin asking the public to reduce their energy usage as a way to lessen the potential strain on the electric grid. Utilities began to make public appeals in the media and social media beginning on Feb. 14 and through Feb. 15. On Feb. 15, SPP transitioned to its highest alert level, EEA Level 3, resulting in rolling power outages in other parts of the SPP system. However, that Level 3 alert did not result in outages in our area.

As electric demand continued to increase on the morning of Tuesday, Feb. 16, SPP again issued its highest energy emergency declaration. When it became clear that there was not enough generation on the grid to meet electric demand, SPP asked the Western Area Power Administration to begin controlled rolling outages at around 7:00 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16. There wasn’t an ability to give consumers advanced warning of the outages.

Will rolling outages continue?

Possibly. With cold weather expected to continue possibly through Wednesday into Thursday across the region, there is still a possibility that rolling outages could be needed. These short-term outages are needed to protect the electric grid from longer, more sustained outages.

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