Duke Energy: Customer demand, less power than forecasted led to rolling blackouts

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In a statement, Duke Energy said it had less power available over the Christmas weekend than it had originally estimated, which led to the decision to instate rolling blackouts.

Spokesperson Jeff Brooks said the company initially forecasted it had enough resources to last through the weekend. He said even though some generation wasn’t available because of “planned or maintenance outages unrelated to the storm,” they still thought they would be able to meet customer demand.

Then, because of the weather, Brooks said they reduced their generator power overnight -- leaving thousands of megawatts online to serve customers. He added that solar power wasn’t being created when the temporary outages started since the sun wasn’t up, but it was added later in the morning.

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Brooks said Duke Energy was depending on power from independent producers and out-of-state purchases. However, he said that did not happen on Christmas Eve because other utilities were experiencing the same challenges Duke Energy faced in meeting demand during the extreme cold.

Based on the reduced and unavailable power generators, the loss of out-of-state resources, and a higher amount of customer usage than forecasted, Duke Energy decided to start the rolling blackouts, Brooks said. The decision was made in an effort to avoid a potentially larger outage that could have lasted a longer period of time.

“We understand how inconvenient and frustrating these outages have been for customers, especially occurring during a holiday season, and we deeply regret any disruptions,” the statement read. “We will work to learn from this incident to continually improve our strategy and better serve customers now and in the future. We are also working to improve the electric grid to make it stronger to help avoid outages and more resilient to serve customers in good weather and in bad.”

Brooks said they gathered additional information to present to regulators at the North Carolina Utilities Commission.

Gov. Roy Cooper questions Duke Energy officials

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper met with Duke Energy officials Tuesday to talk about the utility company’s rolling power outages that were instated over Christmas weekend. His office confirmed the information that Brooks shared.

Channel 9 previously reported the governor expressed concern about people who lost power and didn’t get notices about the rotating outages.

READ MORE: Duke Energy on rolling blackouts: ‘We are sorry for what our customers experienced’

“I’ve asked Duke for a complete report on what went wrong and for changes to be made,” Cooper tweeted on Dec. 26.

Then on Tuesday, Cooper asked questions about what caused the outages, and asked for information about the plans to avoid similar outages and improve communication with customers and the public in the future.

In a news release, Cooper’s office said he outlined his concerns and asked specific questions about why Duke Energy’s initial estimates about their energy usage were wrong. He also asked why the coal and gas plants Duke identified didn’t generate enough electricity.

The governor’s office said instruments at two Duke Energy coal facilities and three natural gas facilities froze during the cold snap, which meant their outputs were either disabled or reduced.

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The office confirmed what Brooks told Channel 9 about out-of-state power sources.

Then, when the rolling outages began, Cooper’s office said a software issue disrupted automatic power restorations -- which Brooks had mentioned.

The Gov. Cooper noted that the impacted facilities leading to the outages appeared to be fossil fuel facilities, and asked if renewable energy resources performed as expected. Duke officials said they did, adding the outages didn’t happen because of renewable energy generation.

Duke officials apologized for the outages, pledging to correct what went wrong.

“The Governor acknowledged that Duke was taking responsibility for what happened and that he expects to continue to be informed about the steps Duke is taking to prevent this from ever happening again,” the release said.

(WATCH BELOW: More than 28,000 power outages reported in Meck County, Duke Energy says)