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Pushed by Gov. Cooper, Duke officials apologize for blackouts, blame widespread extreme cold

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Roy Tennant
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On Tuesday, Governor Roy Cooper met with a group of Duke Energy executives to learn about the causes of power outages over the Christmas Holiday weekend.

On Tuesday, Governor Roy Cooper met with a group of Duke Energy executives to learn about the causes of power outages over the Christmas Holiday weekend.

The weekend of December 24-26, thousands of North Carolinians experienced surprise rotational outages — rolling blackouts during the holiday’s freezing weather, in some cases with no advanced warning.

According to Governor Roy Cooper’s office, Duke’s forecasts for energy demand were wrong, and significantly underestimated the state’s energy needs.

On top of that, five fossil fuel energy plants ran into mechanical problems. Instruments froze at two coal plants and three natural gas plants, reducing their output. Cooper confirmed that renewable resources operated successfully and without disruption during that time.

The crisis escalated from there: the cold weather increased demand and reduced available supply. And Duke’s backup plan of buying power from other regional markets failed, because the severe weather hit much of the United States and the entire grid was strained.

That’s when Duke began rotating outages — it was supposed to be for short durations, but a software problem disrupted automatic restorations, leaving some residents without power for hours.

According to the Washington Post, the number of customers in the Carolinas without power had reached close to 500,000 at one point Christmas morning.

Duke officials apologized for the outages and pledged to provide more requested information to the Governor’s office and the Utilities Commission. They also pledged to fix problems with weather and power generation forecast modeling and with communication to customers.