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Industry says S.C. power grid could weather a storm that Texas couldn’t

Texas ice storm
Texas ice storm(WRDW)
Published: Feb. 19, 2021 at 9:19 AM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - It’s been a cold and dark few days for thousands of Americans hit hard by freezing temperatures, snow, and ice. Texas is the hardest-hit state, and rolling blackouts have affected millions because the state’s power grid failed.

So why did it fail, and could this happen in South Carolina?

Dominion Energy President of Electric Operations, Keller Kissam says the Lone Star State has an isolated power grid. Unlike South Carolina, they can’t rely on their neighbors to help them when their resources are down, and Texas is having to institute rolling blackouts to keep its grid from collapsing.

“We have an advantage compared to what’s going on in Texas,” said Kissam. “We communicate with other utilities in the southeast region and say hey, we need 200 megawatts of additional power today, or we have additional power to sell to you.”

Because the Palmetto State has an interconnected grid and is not deregulated, freezing temperatures or snow would likely not lead to forced power outages, according to Kissam.

“We could have electricity flowing on our system from another utility, or we could be flowing to another utility, and it’s seamless,” he explained. “Customers never see it.”

Right now, more than 420 South Carolina Dominion Energy employees and contract personnel are in Virginia helping turn the lights back on at thousands of homes, as the commonwealth was hit with a historic ice storm.

“People say well we’re not getting snow and ice here in South Carolina I bet your linemen are glad, but through mutual assistance, they’re working,” said Kissam.

These linemen are working long hours, sleeping in their trucks and hotel rooms, and they’re prepared to be there for the next few days as more ice is hitting Virginia Thursday.

But South Carolina linemen have not traveled to Texas.

“There’s nothing my lineman can do in Texas,” Kissam explained. “You see, in Virginia, it’s power poles down on the ground and tree branches, that sort of thing. In Texas, it’s about balancing a checkbook, and that’s as simple as I can tell you.”

Renewable energy sources, like frozen wind turbines and the lack of sun or snow on solar panels, is another argument behind what’s causing the rolling blackouts in Texas. Kissam says while Dominion’s solar capacity is greater than any other generation source, it can’t be solely relied upon.

“I wish we could get all our energy from the sun, but the bottom line is, it’s limited because the sun doesn’t always shine, and there’s nothing anybody can do to make it do that,” he noted.

Kissam also says electricity market deregulation in Texas, which has been considered but not passed in South Carolina, has not incentivized Texas power companies to reinvest or upgrade their systems. He argues that’s one reason South Carolina should not deregulate its market.

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