COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – NBC4 is working to get answers after widespread power outages disrupted hundreds of thousands of lives in central Ohio on the hottest days of 2022.
AEP Ohio, the company that supplies power to much of central Ohio, has said the outage was planned. However, the decision to cut power in certain areas was made by operators at an organization based about 20 miles outside of Philadelphia.
AEP Ohio is part of a network of utility companies that draws electricity from a grid that covers 65 million people across 13 states and Washington, D.C. The grid is operated by a regional transmission organization, named PJM Interconnection.
“They are what I like to call the air traffic controller of the electric grid,” explained Matt Schilling, the spokesperson for the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. “Just like an air traffic controller tells planes when and where to take off, they help control the flow of electricity in real-time.”
Power companies, like AEP, draw electricity from PJM’s grid and distribute it to their customers. In the case of Tuesday’s outages, AEP experienced a “traffic jam,” so to speak.
“The day after [Monday’s] storms, multiple additional transmission lines in the AEP service area tripped out of service. This caused surrounding lines to overload beyond safe levels,” said a PMJ spokesperson in an email to NBC4. “To prevent damage to equipment and the risk of cascading outages across a broader area, PJM directed AEP to lower flows across the overloaded lines by reducing electricity load. “
An AEP Ohio spokesperson says the company backs PJM’s decision, adding, “The factor that determined which communities were impacted by the forced emergency outages this week was whether their local substation was served by an overloading transmission line. This was not a subjective decision made by anyone but was determined by the grid conditions caused by the storm and the hot weather.”
PUCO is conducting its after-action report to determine exactly what led to this week’s outage, so the utilities can prevent that problem in the future.