Over Christmas weekend, instead of the iconic “white Christmas” most long for, many North Carolinians experienced something very different — a “black Christmas” of rolling (i.e. on purpose) blackouts across the state. Duke Energy, which provides power to most our homes and businesses, decided to cut electricity to half a million ratepayers in order to “protect the energy grid against longer, more widespread outages.”
All of this occurred as temperatures plunged to single digits in much of the state and as families gathered for planned Christmas festivities. Sitting in the dark and cold is of course not typically part of the holidays, and it didn’t need to be this year either, although a smaller number of outages were due to lines being down with high winds.
A friend of mine reached out at around 7:30 a.m. on Christmas Eve to ask if my house had power, since he, his wife, and son were without heat on a day with a high of 28 degrees. His power, thankfully, came back on later that morning.
Many ratepayers expressed their outrage under Duke Energy’s message, saying things like, “You did what? It’s 9 degrees outside and Christmas Eve. I pay my bill. This is disgusting,” and, “It’s been 2 hours. You first said 15-30 minutes and then 30-60. Please turn it back on!” and “Four hours now w/o power in Troutman area. No updates whatsoever. Cause unknown at this time. It’s going to be in the ‘teens again tonight. Ugh.”
Then, later that day, at about 4 p.m., Duke updated the state, saying they were done with the rolling blackouts, but that everybody should “conserve energy.” By what? Turning out all their Christmas lights? Going without heat at below-freezing temperatures? Sending the relatives back to where they came from?
Then, on Christmas Day, Duke Energy extended the uncertainty and chaos in N.C. by announcing that the cold, as well as “high energy demand,” was continuing to strain the grid and that people should continue to shut off “nonessential lights” until Dec. 26. Yes, Duke asked that North Carolinians darken the lights on our Christmas trees and on outside our homes — the lights that create so much of the festive atmosphere of the season — until after Christmas was over. There’s a good plot for a Grinch sequel in there somewhere if somebody wants to write it.
Many good citizens will be tempted to think that it was just one of those times when we all have to have a stiff upper lip and “do our part” for the greater good. There are certainly times like that in life, like natural disasters. But in this case, according to Jon Sanders, director of the John Locke Foundation’s Center for Food, Power, and Life, it really didn’t have to be this way.
We’ve had cold and windy winter days before without the need to pre-emptively shut off power, and, as Sanders writes in the American Institute for Economic Research, we shouldn’t fall for the growing effort at “new-normaling” energy blackouts. These blackouts are a phenomenon that was seen only in places like California, but now, with the expansion of unreliable wind and solar projects, they are being seen in more and more states with formerly reliable grids, including our own.
“To be very clear: rolling blackouts are not now, nor have they been, normal in the US,” Sanders said. “Therefore, having to expect rolling blackouts going forward would be abnormal. Nevertheless, as utility providers and power grid monitors have recently warned, the more grids are saddled with intermittent, unreliable wind and solar facilities, the more unreliable they are becoming.”
With that in mind, take one guess what Democrat leaders like Attorney General Josh Stein were calling for at the very moment these blackouts were occurring — more unreliable “renewable” power, like the solar and wind projects that have weakened the grid to the point where it can’t handle cold weather and Christmas lights. Outrageous.