Letter from Eversounce: Information on Controlled Outages

January 10, 2022

"Good afternoon:

We’re writing to brief you on a situation that we’ve been monitoring and analyzing, and that recently made headlines when ISO-New England, operator of the region’s power grid, announced that fuel supply issues could affect its ability to meet demand for electricity this winter.  

ISO-New England’s warning is that, if extended periods of extreme cold weather occur this winter during a time when fuel supplies are constrained, the necessary balance of supply and demand in the electrical grid could be upset. This could require emergency actions – up to and including controlled, rotating power outages.  ISO-New England has authority to require electric utilities to accommodate these outages to safeguard the stability of the power grid.

Your municipality will need to be prepared for the potential loss of power to critical municipal facilities.  It is our mission to provide you with information that will assist in your readiness planning.

We know that, if this unusual situation were to occur, our customers and communities will need to be prepared as best as possible.  We are sharing information with our municipalities about our planning if we are instructed to take the unprecedented step of effecting controlled power outages.  We want you to understand what these actions would mean for your community and how, working together, we might be able to conserve enough energy to avoid rolling outages.

Our Community Relations team will review this issue with you and provide more information on Eversource’s plans and procedures.  The key high-level points are as follows:

Steps in the ISO New England Energy Emergency Process

If an energy shortage occurs, ISO-New England will typically start with public appeals for electric conservation.  We will share those requests with communities and other stakeholders and would ask you to amplify those appeals.  We would also ask that you think about how you would conserve energy in your own municipal buildings and facilities, if called upon.

The next step would be implementation of voltage reductions by utilities.  This step will not be noticed by most customers, except for some commercial and industrial customers.

If those steps are not sufficient to balance supply and demand, ISO-New England may call for controlled outages.  In an emergency, ISO-New England may go straight to this step as necessary to stabilize the electric grid. 

Eversource may not receive advance notice of a controlled-outage order, and our ability to notify communities and customers in advance may be limited.  We are committed to communication and collaboration and will share information as promptly as possible with you, customers, and other stakeholders.

Eversource will seek to rotate outages among “blocks” or groups of customers on different circuits so that the burden is spread as equally as possible.  The number of customers experiencing an outage at any given time -- and the length of their outage -- will depend on the situation.

What Communities Need to Know and Do

Review and be prepared to activate your business continuity plans.

Be prepared to share ISO-New England conservation requests with residents, and to take all possible steps to reduce your own energy use.

In the event of controlled outages, communities should expect loss of power at facilities that are considered “critical” in storm responses, such as police stations and water or sewer facilities.  Unlike storms, Eversource cannot exempt these facilities, nor can we promise to provide generators.  Communities should ensure that generators are in place, working and sufficiently fueled at these key facilities as part of normal business continuity plans.

Ensure that facilities designated as warming sites in emergency plans have generator arrangements.  Controlled outage events are most likely to occur during extreme cold and these facilities may lose power in those circumstances.

Controlled outages may continue for days or longer at ISO-New England’s direction, depending on the scope of the emergency. This is unlike a storm situation, where the system sustains physical damage and Eversource makes repairs to restore power. 

Eversource Is Taking Steps to Be Ready

We are reviewing and updating our plans for controlled outages.

We participate in a monthly load-shedding exercise with ISO-New England.  We are also working with ISO-New England to coordinate communications.

We are briefing state, regional and local officials, media and others on our controlled outage plans.

We are increasing training for our entire Community Relations Team and Liaison Organization to ensure full preparation. 

Collaboration and Communication Will Be Critical

Any emergency would likely impact the entire New England region.  We will partner with ISO-New England and state officials on communications and resource coordination.

In addition to ISO-New England’s communications, Eversource’s primary public communications channels will be news outlets, social media and eversource.com.

If an energy emergency requires rotating outages over several days, our mission will be to provide as much information as possible to customers and other stakeholders.

We recognize that controlled outages would have a significant impact on your community and our customers, and we share your concerns.  Eversource is committed to communicating our contingency plans with you so we can work together if an emergency occurs. We will be contacting you soon to review this issue. "