Mississippi to review its public utility infrastructure after winter outages across America

Mississippi to review its public utility infrastructure after winter outages across America
Entergy Power repair crews head north on Interstate 55 in north Jackson, Miss., Monday, Feb. 15, 2021, as light snow mixed with sleet, and rain continue to cover much of the state. (Source: AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

JACKSON, Miss. (WLOX) - Mississippi’s Public Service Commission announced Wednesday an immediate review of the state’s public utility infrastructure following the disastrous power outages across the country with the recent winter weather.

All three commissioners said the latest winter storm presented new challenges to Mississippi utilities that they feel must be addressed immediately.

“Grid resiliency and reliability is an incredibly important issue and we must maintain a proactive approach to protect our systems and infrastructure,” Chairman Dane Maxwell said. “The extreme winter weather last week brought to light many issues throughout the region that must be addressed to ensure forced outages on a massive scale do not happen here in Mississippi like we saw in other parts of the country.”

Last week, utilities across the country imposed rolling blackouts to ease the demand on electrical grids. But in some areas, those rolling blackouts stretched into days without power in freezing conditions. In Texas alone more than 3 million residents lost electricity, and left people to deal with extreme temperatures not usually seen in the south.

Commissioners stressed that Mississippi’s utilities performed incredibly well during recent, unprecedented weather, ”even producing more electricity than needed on the coldest day of the year.” But that it’s “the responsibility of state regulators to ensure that utilities are doing all they can ensure its systems are resilient, services are reliable and that Mississippians avoid experiencing large-area outages that take a long time to recover from.”

“Mississippians deserve to have every assurance that the public and private power grid, water and other utility services will be there at all times. After all, the customers are the ones paying for it,” Commissioner Brandon Presley said. “Working families and small businesses are already financially struggling because of the pandemic, we must protect their pocketbooks along the way.”

“Although the majority of utilities performed well during the recent extreme weather, the events have raised the bar of preparation and preventative actions utilities should take to minimize outages,” Commissioner Brent Bailey said.

Five deaths in Mississippi were blamed on last week’s winter weather. The Mississippi Emergency Manage Agency (MEMA) said three deaths came as the result of traffic accidents in Oktibbeha, Neshoba, and Warren counties. Two other deaths in Warren and Lafayette counties are blamed on exposure.

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