Company expresses regret for customer experience and length of outages stemming from regional event
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Leaders from Duke Energy today apologized to customers and regulators for the disruption caused by the company’s actions to institute rotating power outages on Dec. 24 to protect the grid and vowed to learn from the experience to help prevent it from occurring that way again.
In a presentation before the North Carolina Utilities Commission, Duke Energy leaders explained the unique chain of events leading up to the curtailment of power to customers in North Carolina and South Carolina resulting from historic cold weather and extremely high customer demand for electricity caused by Winter Storm Elliott. The rotating outages, the first ever instituted by the company in the Carolinas, were conducted as a preventive measure to avoid potentially larger and longer outages across the system. Approximately 15% of customers overall – roughly 500,000 in total – were impacted.
“We are sorry for what our customers experienced,” said Julie Janson, executive vice president and CEO, Duke Energy Carolinas. “We regret not being able to provide customers as much advance notice as we would have liked, and acknowledge that the outages themselves lasted far longer than we first expected.”
Duke Energy officials pointed to a rapid series of events late on Dec. 23 and early on Dec. 24 – which included rapidly plunging temperatures, demand for electricity that outpaced projections, diminished generation capacity and the loss of purchased power the company was relying on – that forced the company to initiate the automated power outages.
“This is the first time in our company’s history that we had to implement rolling service disruptions, and although the majority of our power plants performed well in the storm, the outage process did not go as smoothly as we would have liked and we did not deliver the reliable performance that our customers expect,” said Kendal Bowman, North Carolina state president.
The company explained the length of the outages, which in some cases lasted longer than the original estimation, resulted from a failure of the automated tool used to disconnect and then restore power, requiring circuits to be restored manually. It also interfered with the company’s ability to communicate effectively with customers.
“The fast-moving pace of events leading up to the temporary outages did not permit us to be as proactive in our communications as we would have liked, and although we provided information to customers across news media, social media and our company website throughout the day, the information was not as accurate as what our customers are typically accustomed to,” said Bowman.
“We own what happened. We have set out on a path to ensure that if we are faced with similar challenges, we will see a different outcome and provide a better customer experience,” said Janson.
“That begins by following the facts wherever they lead. We have launched internal reviews of our systems and procedures, and we will also examine how other providers responded to this regional event for any best practices we can learn.”
South Carolina State President Mike Callahan echoed the remarks of Janson and Bowman, noting, “This event reinforces the need to have reliability top of mind as we continue our clean energy transition. We are committed to learning from this regional event and to improving our technical tools to help deal with unusual and severe weather. We regret we had to interrupt service to a portion of our customers, and appreciate the response to our request for conservation to keep the grid safe and operational.”
Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK), a Fortune 150 company headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., is one of America’s largest energy holding companies. Its electric utilities serve 8.2 million customers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky, and collectively own 50,000 megawatts of energy capacity. Its natural gas unit serves 1.6 million customers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Ohio and Kentucky. The company employs 28,000 people.
Duke Energy was named to Fortune’s 2022 “World’s Most Admired Companies” list and Forbes’ “World’s Best Employers” list. More information is available at duke-energy.com. The Duke Energy News Center contains news releases, fact sheets, photos and videos. Duke Energy’s illumination features stories about people, innovations, community topics and environmental issues. Follow Duke Energy on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook.