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TVA appoints panel to look into Alabama blackouts during arctic blast

Federal Utility Blackouts
FILE - This satellite image made available by NOAA shows cloud cover over North America on Dec. 21, 2022, at 1:31 p.m. The nation’s largest public utility has appointed an independent panel to look into power failures that spurred the decision to implement rolling blackouts during dangerously cold conditions late last year, Tennessee Valley Authority announced Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023. (NOAA via AP, File)

The nation's largest public utility is appointing an independent panel to look into power failures over Christmas weekend. The situation prompted rolling blackouts during dangerously cold conditions late last year. The Tennessee Valley Authority says the panel will include American Public Power Association President Joy Ditto and former U.S. Sen. Bob Corker from Tennessee. The federal utility said several coal and gas units had problems just before Christmas as the arctic blast brought strong winds and freezing temperatures. TVA has said it takes full responsibility for the Christmas weekend rolling blackouts and is undergoing a review of what happened.

The utility experienced its highest ever winter peak-power demand on Dec. 23. The TVA said a combination of high winds and freezing temperatures caused its coal-burning Cumberland Fossil Plant in Cumberland City to go offline. The Bull Run coal-burning plant in Clinton also went down. TVA said most of the local power companies it supplies were able to keep the rolling blackouts to "relatively short durations" for the people dependent on its electricity. TVA says it told all 153 local power companies to reduce their load on the electric grid by up to 10%. The utility says it was up to local power companies to decide how to make the reductions, and the rolling temporary power reductions were an option and not a requirement.

TVA provides power to 10 million people in parts of seven Southern states, including Alabama.

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.
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