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Deep Freeze 2021 FAQ

A major winter storm swept across North America during the week of Feb. 14, 2021. The ultra-low temperatures led to a dramatic increase in demand for electricity and heating fuels, straining the electrical grid that spans 14 states, including Oklahoma. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Probably. Most of us used more energy heating our homes because of the very cold temperatures. The more you used, the higher the bill.

Even if you turned down the thermostat, the sub-zero temperatures forced heating units to work harder to maintain stable temperatures in your home. The variables are the insulation in your home, and how low you set your thermostat.

At this point, no one knows exactly just how much the fuel charge from the recent storm will be or when it will show up on bills.  Utilities can pass through to you (at no profit) the cost of the fuel they had to buy to deliver energy to you. 

Example: Oklahoma Natural Gas has to buy natural gas to deliver to you. 

  • That delivery is a major part of your rates.  
  • Your bill also contains charges, which include the fuel cost. 

Because the estimates of fuel costs from the storm are very high, the OCC has approved measures that allow regulated utilities to delay passing on those higher costs to you. Those measures include requirements that all fuel costs must first undergo a full review by the OCC, the Attorney General (who represents the consumer before the OCC) and other parties that may join the case. 

All fuel cost pass-throughs must be reviewed and approved by the OCC.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission has no jurisdiction over municipal utilities.

Oklahoma is the nation’s fourth-largest state for natural gas production. The production and transportation of natural gas in Oklahoma was impacted by the polar vortex as equipment “froze off” in the extreme cold, limiting available supply.  

At the same time, demand soared to record levels.  

The situation could be likened to someone who has the money to pay bills when they are due every month or so (rent/mortgage, credit cards, taxes, groceries, etc.). However, if all those costs were unexpectedly required to be paid all at once for the entire year, the person wouldn’t be able to meet demand. That is what happened during the storm, as what is normally months of natural gas demand was packed into just a few days. 

The OCC has no permitting authority for a power plant, regardless of fuel source, nor does the OCC have authority to require that a regulated utility use a particular kind of power generation. The OCC’s authority regarding generation facilities is limited to applications from regulated utilities that want to recover the cost of a given generation project.

Many electric generation facilities in Oklahoma, particularly wind facilities, are owned by companies that are independent of a regulated utility. 

The SPP is a regional transmission organization (RTO). It manages electric generation 24 hours a day for a 14-state region that includes Oklahoma. The SPP’s mission is to ensure reliable power supplies, adequate transmission infrastructure and competitive wholesale electricity prices for the region.

The SPP employs a diverse energy mix. While fuels can change over the course of a generation day, here is the average “mix” of sources for SPP-dispatched electricity:

  • 40.9% natural gas
  • 26% coal
  • 24.9% wind
  • 3.8% hydro
  • 2.3% nuclear
  • 1.7% fuel oil
  • 0.2% solar
  • 0.1% other

For more information on SPP, visit their website.

SPP presentation

Presentation by SPP Chief Operating Officer Lanny Nickell provided to the Corporation Commissioners on March 18, 2021.

Have more questions?

Contact the Office of Public Information if you have questions that aren't addressed here.

Have grid questions?

If you have questions regarding the 14-state electricity grid, please contact the Southwest Power Pool's communications office.

Last Modified on Mar 18, 2021