While neighbors to the west of us in Oklahoma and western Missouri were suffering through rolling blackouts during winter storm Uri, we in Jackson were comfortably warm, kept our lights burning, our television sets on and our stoves cooking.
We can be thankful that we live here and not in Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and other areas where there was not enough electricity to go around after the storm struck Feb. 14-16.
And yet, the City of Jackson did feel the effects of the storm, even if residents were shielded.
The City of Jackson has the ability to generate electricity, but under normal conditions the City, as part of a co-op, purchases electricity from Missouri Public Utility Alliance.
Representatives from MPUA explained the effects of Winter Storm Uri on Jackson utilities at the Jackson Mayor and Board of Aldermen meeting March 15.
The extremely cold temperatures caused the demand for electricity and natural gas to exceed supply. Natural gas was needed both to run power plants and to heat homes and businesses.
It was so cold that pumps froze, and natural gas could not be pumped from the ground.
“We’ve never seen anything like this,” said Ewell Lawson, MPUA’s vice president of governmental affairs. “They couldn’t pull the gas out of the wells. Prices went through the roof.”
The price of natural gas went from $3 a decatherm to up to $1,000 a decatherm. (Most homes in Missouri will use about a decatherm of gas in a month during the winter.)
In addition, generators could not generate enough electricity because the extreme cold caused coal to freeze and turned diesel fuel to jelly. Solar panels were covered in snow and wind tubines iced up.
“The generation we had to serve the load — it was just gone,” said Rebeca Adkins, vice president of market operations and analysis for MPUA.
Electricity prices went from $20 a megawatt to more than $4,000 a megawatt.
Jackson belongs to Mo-PEP, a Missouri Public Energy Pool consisting of 35 cities, of which about a third (including Jackson) can generate power.
MoPEP called on local generation, such as Jackson’s power plant, to help offset high market prices. Jackson generated enough electricity to offset $1.5 million worth of electricity (at the inflated price) that otherwise would have been purchased by MoPEP. Jackson received a credit of $120,000 for its expenses in producing that electricity.
However, when the City of Jackson received its electric bill for the month when the storm came, it was about three times the normal bill for that month. Jackson will pay $1.7 million more than usual for the higher cost of electricity during the storm.
Because it was a natural disaster or “act of God,” the $1.7 million higher cost will not be passed along to Jackson electricity customers. Instead, it will be paid from the electric reserve fund.