Duke Energy Apologizes For Rolling Blackouts

Company expresses regret for customer experience and length of outages

Leaders from Duke Energy Tuesday apologized to customers and regulators for the disruption caused by the company’s actions to institute rotating power outages on Dec. 24 to protect the grid and vowed to learn from the experience to help prevent it from occurring that way again.

In a presentation before the North Carolina Utilities Commission, Duke Energy leaders explained the unique chain of events leading up to the curtailment of power to customers in North Carolina and South Carolina resulting from historic cold weather and extremely high customer demand for electricity caused by Winter Storm Elliott. The rotating outages, the first ever instituted by the company in the Carolinas, were conducted as a preventive measure to avoid potentially larger and longer outages across the system. Approximately 15% of customers overall – roughly 500,000 in total – were impacted.

“We are sorry for what our customers experienced,” said Julie Janson, executive vice president and CEO, Duke Energy Carolinas. “We regret not being able to provide customers as much advance notice as we would have liked, and acknowledge that the outages themselves lasted far longer than we first expected.”

Duke Energy officials pointed to a rapid series of events late on Dec. 23 and early on Dec. 24 – which included rapidly plunging temperatures, demand for electricity that outpaced projections, diminished generation capacity and the loss of purchased power the company was relying on – that forced the company to initiate the automated power outages.

“This is the first time in our company’s history that we had to implement rolling service disruptions, and although the majority of our power plants performed well in the storm, the outage process did not go as smoothly as we would have liked and we did not deliver the reliable performance that our customers expect,” said Kendal Bowman, North Carolina state president.

The company explained the length of the outages, which in some cases lasted longer than the original estimation, resulted from a failure of the automated tool used to disconnect and then restore power, requiring circuits to be restored manually. It also interfered with the company’s ability to communicate effectively with customers.

“The fast-moving pace of events leading up to the temporary outages did not permit us to be as proactive in our communications as we would have liked, and although we provided information to customers across news media, social media and our company website throughout the day, the information was not as accurate as what our customers are typically accustomed to,” said Bowman.

“We own what happened. We have set out on a path to ensure that if we are faced with similar challenges, we will see a different outcome and provide a better customer experience,” said Janson.

“That begins by following the facts wherever they lead. We have launched internal reviews of our systems and procedures, and we will also examine how other providers responded to this regional event for any best practices we can learn.”

13 COMMENTS

  1. Reminds me of a keystone cop event. Not their finest moment. Confident preperations for future events will be more thoroughly vetted.

  2. If we had been told the rolling outage would have effected our home, we would have used lp gas backup instead of heat lamps to protect our plumbing. However, our pipes burst and required calling a plumber to repair. We were without water for 5 days due to plumbers heavy work load because of others homes in the same situation as ours.

    • Yes, this sort of thing happens when they rely on being able to buy power to meet demand instead of having traditional generating capacity. The same thing that caused the debacle in Texas a while back.

  3. If they truly “rotated” the outages, then why did my neighborhood and the one next to ours lose power for 14 hours? If rotation was taking place it seems no one should have lost power for more than 2-3 hours tops. Our neighborhood and the one next to ours are fairly small, too.

  4. My brother is an invalid age 71 & his wife is 73. Their lights went out & stayed out for about 5 hours. She said they so cold. That doesn’t make “bad” sense on the coldest day of the year.

  5. Outdated equipment and all sorts of upgrades are needed. Thankfully some people recognize this and will make sure companies do the necessary upgrades. Same with the airlines. You can’t continue to raise prices and make huge profits and not invest some of the money back into the company to make it run better – that is a failure for any business model. The companies will complain and moan about being “forced” to make upgrades but in the long run it will make for a better product. The same for the many outdated bridges and such in the US. If people realized how dangerous some of these were, they wouldn’t want to be driving on them and risk their lives – one death is too many especially if it is preventable. It is way past time to update our infrastructure and make companies that provide essential services to the public to make upgrades as well – and to use their profits they have already made, not raise prices to do so.
    Sorry for any misspelled words, I don’t have my glasses near me at the moment…I can’t see worth a darn..plus my spellcheck doesn’t catch everything.

    • I just wish the governments bloated infrastructure bill actually included money for infrastructure! Or all the money that went to Ukraine went to fix these items here in the US!

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