A hearing in Congress this week on energy infrastructure provided an opportunity to focus on the electric grid, and specifically on how to avoid the loss of power that Oklahoma and other states experienced during the big February deep freeze.
Among those testifying Wednesday at the Senate Homeland Security Committee's "Strategies for Improving Critical Infrastructure" hearing was Lanny Nickell, Chief Operating Officer for the Southwest Power Pool, which manages the electric grid and wholesale power market for the central United States.
Oklahoma Senator James Lankford is the ranking member of DHS's Subcommittee on Government Operations and Border Security and asked Nickell what he feels was the primary cause of the natural gas failure SPP experienced
"At SPP, what we know is that there was a lack of fuel supply," said Nickell, "and we believe, based on information that our market monitor has produced, is that it was s combination of two things: gas just simply wasn’t available and-or gas prices were too high."
Senator Lankford also asked about fuel diversity, about winterizing and wanted to know what the takeaways were for Southwest Power Pool
"We are really embarking on that learning exercise right now," said Nickell, "and one of the things that I think has got to happen -- we’ve got to do a better job of -- and that is we’ve got to communicate more. The gas industry and the electric industry have to get together at the table and talk, and we haven’t done a good job of that in the past."
Lankford says he's trying to make sure Oklahomans don't experience rolling blackouts again the next time there's a major winter event.. making sure systems are winterized, supply is not an issue, and if is then other systems can help out
"The connectivity from one regional organization to another...so, from the East coast, can we get some of that power from you, do we have enough connectivity? We don’t clearly, at this point," said Lankford.