CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — As West Virginia continues to recover from weather-related power outages, some wonder whether a widespread state power outage like the one in Texas could happen in the Mountain State.
The answer is complicated, but energy experts say the causes for the Texas power outage and the recent ones in West Virginia are different.
In West Virginia, PJM is the name of the power grid the state gets its electricity from.
The state is only a small part of the 65 million people across the 13 states the Pennsylvania-headquartered grid serves.
PJM says to think of them like air traffic controllers: They don’t own the power lines. They just manage the grid.
“And we do that for efficiency because it allows us to move power across the system; so if one area is short on one day they could take advantage of energy on other parts of the system, so PJM’s job is to manage those flows and make sure there’s enough supply anywhere on the system to meet demand,” said Senior Vice President of PJM’s operations Mike Bryson.
Supply was what was lacking in Texas, which is different from what Appalachian Power says caused their recent power outages.
“Here our problem is that we just had severe weather events, two back to back ice storms that brought down power lines and just caused extensive damage to the electric infrastructure, and so you couldn’t get the power to where it needed to go,” said Phil Moye with AEP.
At the outage’s peak, more than 95,000 customers in West Virginia had no power, that number is now down to 13,000 says Moye.
PJM says they have weather safeguards in place including frequent drills.
“And, fortunately, because of the normal weather patterns in our region, most plants are constructed in anticipation of freezing temperatures,” reads one of their lengthy manuals.
While Bryson didn’t want to speculate on the causes of the failure of Texas’ power grid—the only state with their own power grid—he says it’s his job to make sure a blackout doesn’t happen.
“We take a lot of precautions making sure we have sufficient reserves and making sure we can take power from our neighbors in New York, Tennessee and the Carolinas, just this last week we were exporting a lot of energy to our neighbors who had a higher demand than we did,” said Bryson.