Thousands of Nebraskans impacted by rotating power outages, companies say it was out of their control

10/11 NOW at 5
Published: Feb. 16, 2021 at 6:05 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Thousands of Nebraskans woke up this morning without power with LES and NPPD being required to run rotating outages. It comes as the Central U.S. is experiencing extreme cold and many states are struggling to keep up with the demands.

The outages took place across the city and Nebraska between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m.

Rick Batten, a Denton resident was among those impacted. He was impacted by not one, but two rolling outages just 15 minutes apart.

“Our house got down to 60 degrees,” Batten said. “Me and my wife sat by the fire and I had managed to make some coffee so we drank coffee and each read the news and that’s how we spent our morning.”

He’s not alone. 44,000 LES customers and an unknown number of NPPD customers were without power for between 30-60 minutes. The companies said the decision was beyond their control.

“We don’t yet know why this happened but what we knew was we were required by regulatory requirements to do it and if we didn’t we’d be subject to penalties,” Kevin Wailes, CEO of LES said.

The call was made by the Southwest Power Pool, which is charged with maintaining reliability in the electric grid in most of the central U.S., including Nebraska.

“We were all producing more power than we were using,” Wailes said. “But the rest of the footprint was having issues that were fuel related, cold weather related.”

Tom Kent, CEO and President of NPPD said if action wasn’t taken, there could have been a widespread uncontrolled outage.

Both NPPD and LES said they worked to ensure customers had as much warning as possible, but as it was an emergency situation, they could only do so much.

“This was an unusual cold snap,” Kent said. “I know everyone would have really liked to know when it was going to happen at their house, I know my wife was wanting to know when it was going to happen at our house, but there’s no way of knowing.”

Both Kent and Wailes said the companies worked to keep power on at places like hospitals, jails and 911 call centers. They’ve also said they’re optimistic there won’t be any further interruptions, but there are no guarantees.

As far as how this could impact LES bills, Wailes said as customers use more power to heat their homes their bills will go up but he said LES can’t raise rates without a vote by the LES board and Lincoln City Council.

Customers like Batten said while it is inconvenient to have a power outage, a minor outage like what he experienced is better than what’s happening in Texas, where he has some loved ones.

“They’ve been without power for 36 hours and it’s 40 degrees in their home,” Batten said. “So I think anything we can do to cut back and share power is what everyone should do.”

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