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Report: Indiana not prepared for extreme winter weather, massive power outages could come

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The latest report released last week by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) says Indiana’s electrical grid is prepared for a normal winter season, but when it comes to unexpected extreme weather, it’s an entirely different playing field.

“It’s that extreme weather we need to be concerned about and not take our supply of electricity for granted,” NERC Manager of Reliability Assessments Mark Olson said.

Olson tells I-Team 8 it is imperative the state prepares so it avoids the massive power outages seen in Texas this past February.

“Texas really bore the brunt of the catastrophe earlier this year. I think it was a wake up call for the electric industry,” he said.

Olson says access to natural gas is as much a part of the problem as the state’s electricity being dependent on fuel availability is.

“The natural gas is supporting a variety of needs, from the space heating in people’s homes and businesses. But it’s also supporting the electricity generation. So we’ve got this condition where electricity supplies is dependent on natural gas availability,” he said.

The Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) is a utility grid based in Carmel. They gave I-Team 8 the following the statement:

“MISO supports the efforts of NERC and responded to their data requests to help inform their analysis. Our “The February Event Report” outlines several lessons learned that correlate with NERC’s recommendations. This type of collaborative work with our stakeholders gives us confidence that we will collectively continue to ensure reliability of the Bulk Electric System. MISO hosted our Winter Readiness workshop last month where we reviewed the updates to NERC’s Cold Weather Standards. We also projected adequate resources for the winter season but we are preparing for potential risks and volatility due to possible extreme weather.”

In a statement issued after the I-Team 8 report was prepared for broadcast, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, the economic regulator that ensures utilities are providing safe and reliable service, said, “We recognize the risk mentioned in the NERC report; however, facilities in this region are designed, built, and maintained with severe winter weather and seasonal peak load requirements in mind. This includes enclosing components to protect infrastructure from the elements and making sure there is sufficient power to meet load. And ongoing operations and maintenance planning are designed with weatherization elements built into the design of the facilities and equipment that make it function.”

A spokesperson for the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission also says it has been investing infrastructure that “can withstand the elements and at times, harsh Indiana weather, including both summer and winter.”

The commission says people who are struggling to pay their utility bills should contact the utility directly to inquire about the potential option for payment arrangements or other options to maintain utility service. An additional resource that may be helpful is Indiana 211, which is a free, 24/7 service that helps Hoosiers across Indiana find the local resources they need. Customers can contact them by dialing 211 or 866-211-9966 or by going to