Curtis Tate Published

Utilities Could Pay Up To $2 Billion In Fines Over Christmas Outages

A man pushes a snow blower across a street as snow falls in Baltimore.
A man pushes a snow blower across a street as snow falls in Baltimore.

Utilities in the regional grid that powers much of the Eastern United States could face steep penalties over power plant failures during Christmas weekend.

Utilities in PJM, which includes West Virginia and 12 other states, could face $1 billion to $2 billion in fines, according to the regional transmission operator.

As much as 57,000 megawatts of electricity went down in PJM on Christmas Eve, as an Arctic blast sent temperatures in much of the country down to zero or below.

“Quite frankly, while a lot of resources did perform well, generator forced outages were unacceptable,” said Mike Bryson, PJM senior vice president of operations.

In a presentation this week, PJM attributed most of the failures to natural gas plants, but also cited problems with coal, nuclear and renewable resources.

The presentation did not name the individual utilities whose plants failed. A more detailed report will be coming in April, PJM said.

Appalachian Power and Mon Power were among the companies that asked their customers to conserve electricity over the Christmas holiday at PJM’s request.

No rolling blackouts took place in PJM territory that weekend. They did take place in the Tennessee Valley Authority and Duke Energy in North Carolina. Those utilities also cited natural gas and coal plant failures.