MOORHEAD — Last week saw historic cold weather throughout the central U.S., resulting in power outages and huge bumps in energy bills for some power customers.
While the blackouts affected many people, including thousands of Moorhead Public Service customers, MPS announced Friday, Feb. 26, it does not expect to have to raise its rates due to the historic cold weather, nor does it expect a rate increase from its power suppliers.
"Severely cold temperatures throughout the region caused a high demand for electricity," said Travis Schmidt, MPS general manager, in a statement, adding that many electric generating sources of all kinds failed to perform during the extreme weather event, particularly in the southern U.S.
Schmidt said MPS has two power providers — Western Area Power Administration, which supplies a specified amount of hydroelectric power to the Moorhead area from the dams on the Missouri River, and Missouri River Energy Services, which supplies the remainder of the power used in Moorhead.
Schmidt said MRES draws from a diverse mix of fuel sources, including hydroelectric, coal, natural gas, wind, solar, diesel and nuclear. He added that MRES' electric power plants performed well during the cold weather.
Southwest Power Pool is an electric grid operator serving 14 central U.S. states, including the Dakotas and the western edge of Minnesota, including Moorhead.
During the cold spell, SPP required a number of utilities using its power grid to impose rolling blackouts, including MPS, even though resources serving MRES members performed well during the cold spell.
"We never want to inconvenience our customers, but SPP had to initiate the outages to protect the greater grid. Doing our part for a short time prevented longer, more sustained outages for Moorhead and the entire region," Schmidt said.
The city of Fargo, which is not in SPP territory, did not experience rolling blackouts like Moorhead did on Feb. 16.
Many Fargo area residents get their electricity from Xcel Energy, and the utility says the recent cold weather around the country is not expected to have a big impact on the electric bills of Xcel's customers, as the company has a generous mix of power sources.
Tony Grindberg, Xcel's principal manager in North Dakota, said the picture will likely be different for natural gas customers, as a spike in demand resulted in a dramatic short-term increase in natural gas prices for both home heating and producing electricity throughout the country.
Those increases, Grindberg said, will likely have a noticeable impact on North Dakota and Minnesota customers’ natural gas heating bills, with preliminary estimates putting that impact at about $250-$300 per average residential customer, a cost that traditionally would be spread over the course of a year. He added, however, that officials are working on a way to spread that cost over a longer period of time.