The Mississippi Public Service Commission will be using a standard audit of Entergy’s membership in the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) regional transmission organization to examine the RTO’s role in the service disruptions during the recent ice storm.
The commission voted unanimously to punt the issue until its April meeting.
Northern District Commissioner Brandon Presley said MISO gave Entergy and Cooperative Energy six minutes to start shedding load (reducing electricity supplied to certain customers) throughout their territory or face forced outages. He said it was an inexcusable communication problem that only a six-minute warning by MISO was given to the two utilities.
The same storm in mid-February crippled the power grid of Texas, causing widespread outages.
On February 16, the MISO South Region — which includes all of Entergy's subsidiaries, Louisiana utility Cleco, and Cooperative Energy that serve parts of Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas — began planned outages in its service footprint. The RTO adjusts the output of electric generation throughout its service area to meet demand for all of its members. This interconnection also allows utilities to purchase generation capacity from those with a surplus when needed.
“Our state was forced to take the same share of forced outages spread across the region as other states, although Mississippi utilities performed well and produced 800 more megawatts of power than was needed during this time,” Presley said. “To many of the MISO folks who are here moaning about this move. You know, you're in the business to answer questions.
“That's what you get paid the big bucks to do. And it is legitimate. It is a legitimate question for a commission to ask. And if you don't like those questions, you don't need to be in the utility business.”
Presley also said the commission will look into $90 million in administrative costs spread throughout MISO’s footprint in response to damage to the grid by Hurricane Laura, which made landfall in Cameron, Louisiana on August 27.
While membership in MISO has saved Entergy customers about $50 million per year, Presley said one major hurricane in the MISO footprint could wipe out those savings for customers.
His Republican colleague, Central District Commissioner Brent Bailey, said an examination into what caused the forced ice storm-related outages by the commission is warranted.
“I certainly don’t think it hurts to re-evaluate the feasibility of this membership and the structure by which Entergy participates in MISO,” Bailey said.
Entergy agreed to join MISO, a non-profit RTO that delivers electricity to 15 states and the Canadian province of Manitoba, in 2013 as part of a deal with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to divest its transmission network.
The PSC also approved audits of both of the state’s investor-owned utilities, Entergy and Mississippi Power.
The commission also approved Presley to handle the application of a solar plant to be built on 3,900 acres in Lowndes County.
In December 2020, MS Solar 5 LLC filed an application with the PSC for a 200 megawatt solar facility along with a 50 megawatt battery storage unit that will require a $200 million initial investment. MS Solar 5 already has a power purchase agreement with the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Origis Energy USA — which owns the proposed facility and is based in Miami, Florida — won a competition to supply renewable generation to the TVA and construction is scheduled to start this June.
The company has already built 104 megawatts of capacity in Mississippi, with one sold to another operator and another still owned by Origis and selling its output to Cooperative Energy.
In 2019, the TVA issued a request for proposals for renewable energy resources for 200 megawatts worth of generation capacity. Origis was one of the firms selected to add renewable generation capacity to the TVA portfolio.