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Texas Power Debacle Shouldn’t Happen in D.C., Utility Company Officials Say

The power outage that occurred in Texas last month that left millions of people days without electricity has some residents concerned that such a situation could happen in the District, but utility company officials say they are prepared for extreme weather events.

Dorothea Daniels, a District resident, was surprised and worried about the welfare of relatives who live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. A winter storm left most of the state without power for almost a week due to the overload of the independent state electric grid as a result of the unprecedented demand for power.

Daniels, like many District residents, wonder if such a catastrophe could happen in the nation’s capital but power company officials say not likely.

Ben Armstrong works as the director of operations communications at Pepco, the utility which largely supplies the District its power. Armstrong said Pepco constantly stays up to date regarding its grid.

“At Pepco, we analyze and evaluate the local energy grid on an ongoing basis and work is constantly being performed to further enhance reliability and harden the local energy grid,” he said.

“From inspecting and upgrading equipment, installing advanced equipment and using innovative energy technologies, to continuously reviewing equipment and system standards related to variations in weather and climate, our constant focus is on providing safe, reliable, affordable and sustainable energy service for our customers and communities.”

Armstrong said the consistent maintenance of the power grid in the District, as well as in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, has produced “the lowest frequency of electric outages ever in 2020.”

“Over the past 10 years the frequency of electric outages has been reduced by 68 percent for Pepco customers and communities,” he said. “While we are achieving record reliable performance for our customers, our work to make the local energy grid smarter, stronger and resilient never stops.”

Unlike the Texas grid that operates autonomously, Pepco is an element of the PJM Interconnection system, the nation’s largest electric grid serving 65 million people in 13 states and the District. On its website in February, PJM said it and its member companies are prepared for the severe weather “that continues to impact the majority of the country this week.”

“PJM and its members have maintained reliable operation of the bulk power system during the recent extreme storms while exporting record amounts of electricity to neighboring systems,” the website said. “It involves 24/7 system monitoring and dispatch by trained operators, coordination with other operating entities and industry sectors in real time, markets that support reliability and resource adequacy over the long term, and extensive regional transmission planning to ensure the grid is equipped to serve future needs.”

The website said PJM plans for the winter and its member companies have winterized their systems. It conducts drills to prepare employees and procures resources to meet the anticipated demands of extreme weather, the website said.

Manu Asthana, president and CEO of PJM, said “reliability will always be our priority.”

“It takes the joint effort of our employees and our member companies to deliver on that responsibility, and we are grateful for their dedication and coordination in keeping the power flowing,” Asthana said in a statement. “We especially want to acknowledge the hard work of front-line workers including the operators at the plants, the lineman and the control operators and others whose jobs are further complicated by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.”

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