The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission called the heads of the state’s energy and electric companies to a hearing Thursday to discuss their shortfalls during January’s polar vortex.
Representatives from Xcel Energy, Centerpoint Energy, and Great Plains Gas were all in attendance. Of particular concern was Xcel’s request that its 460,000 gas customers lower their thermostats to 63 degrees to prevent additional outages.
Things got so bad in Princeton, Minnesota that some residents were forced to leave their homes after Xcel cut service to more than 100 customers.
“It was 30-something below zero and it doesn’t take long, so it started to get cold in there really fast when the furnace went out and there was no other way to heat it,” Princeton resident Andy Ekker told Fox 9. “That’s the frustration with these utilities. It’s I can’t shop around. I mean, you’re stuck with the company you get and that’s it. And they have all the control and all the say.”
During Thursday’s hearing, the state’s utilities executives revealed that most wind turbines are completely shut down when temperatures plummet to 20 below, The Star Tribune notes. The turbines are actually programmed to turn off during subzero temperatures to avoid mechanical damage.
As The Minnesota Sun previously reported, wind energy effectively “dropped off” the grid during January’s polar vortex, according to a report from the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO).
“An earlier than expected drop in wind, primarily caused by cold weather cutoffs, increased risk of insufficiency for morning peak,” that report said, noting that wind power in the 15 states overseen by MISO experienced a “maximum generation event.”
“This is what happens when the government starts mandating and subsidizing inferior energy sources,” Institute for Energy Research senior fellow Dan Kish recently told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Center of the American Experiment policy fellow Isaac Orr recently commented that “this means wind power is literally unable to show up to work when we need it most.”
“Thank goodness we had coal and nuclear power plants available to provide the electricity we needed to keep our furnaces running,” he said. “Astonishingly, these coal and nuclear plants are the same coal and nuclear plants many DFL lawmakers want to shut down in order to prioritize more wind power.”
Indeed, three DFL state senators have co-authored a bill that seeks to make “Minnesota the first state in the nation to use only renewable energy.”
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Minnesota Wind Turbines” by cariliv. CC BY 2.0.