On December 15, 2021, the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) announced that the Energy Emergency Alert (EEA) process was to be replaced with the Grid Alert notification method. The new process came into effect on January 1, 2022. The key driver for the Grid Alert process was the complexity of the EEA. The former method used a three-step approach, while the Grid Alert uses only one step. The AESO designed the Grid Alert process to give Albertans clear and consistent information without the use of industry jargon.
Since its launch, the AESO has announced several Grid alerts, the most recent on August 28, 2023. In this guide, we look at why Grid Alerts are announced, how they work, as well as what you can do during one of these alerts.
What is a Grid Alert, and why is it announced
A Grid Alert is an announcement that is issued when the provincial power grid is under stress and the AESO is preparing to use emergency reserves to meet demand and maintain system reliability. Grid Alerts can be triggered by various factors, including:
- Heat waves or deep freezes: Both lead to increased usage of heaters or air conditioners respectively.
- The time of day and wind conditions: These factors affect the availability of solar and wind-generated energy.
- Unplanned generation facility outages: This causes a drop in electricity supplies for Alberta’s electricity grid.
- Other factors beyond the control of power distribution companies: For example, lightning, downed power lines, and tornados.
Out of these factors, deep freezes and heat waves are the most frequent causes of a Grid Alert.
How do Grid Alerts work?
When a Grid Alert is underway, the AESO utilizes various measures to ensure grid stability. This includes using emergency reserves, reducing or suspending exports or energy sales, cancelling transmission maintenance, implementing voluntary curtailment programs, and requesting emergency imports. As a last option, the AESO can initiate temporary rotating power outages.
How do heat waves or deep freezes affect the electricity grid?
As noted above, heat waves, deep freezes, and other severe weather events can have a large impact on the Alberta power grid. In each case, electricity demand from consumers increases severalfold, whether it’s from fans, air conditioning units, or heating. This causes the electricity grid to be overwhelmed with demand for electricity and depletion of operating reserves – in such cases, rolling brownouts may be implemented to ensure that no consumers are left without power for too long.
This additionally affects pricing on the electricity market – low electricity supply means high electricity bills at the end of the month, particularly for consumers on variable and RRO rate plans.
What should I do during a Grid Alert?
During a Grid Alert, the AESO advises residents to reduce their electricity use during peak hours (4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.). This helps lower the possibility of the AESO using more serious emergency measures to balance the system, such as rolling power outages. Some easy conservation tips you can follow are:
- Turning off unnecessary lights and electrical appliances.
- Use major power-consuming appliances (e.g., washers and dryers) during off-peak hours.
- Minimize the use of air conditioners or space heaters.
For more energy conservation tips, check out this article.
*The following is a previous article on Energy Emergency Alerts. We decided to include the article here for future reference on how the AESO levels and alerts have changed over time.
What is an energy emergency alert?
Energy emergency alerts are tiered alerts provided in the Alberta Interconnected Electric System Event Log that describe the relationship between the firm load in the province and the available resources, as well as if there’s a need for consumers to reduce energy use. Each energy emergency alert will be further described below
What is AESO’s energy emergency alert Level 1?
- This alert is issued when all available resources in the energy market have been used to meet the AIES (Alberta Interconnected Electric System) firm load.
- In terms of operating reserves, around 500 MW reserves are available, meaning operating reserves are intact and sufficient.
- As per schedules, energy is imported through interconnections with British Columba and Saskatchewan.
- Customers with Demand Opportunity Service contracts are asked to lower their demand on the system. Such customers usually have flexible operations that can respond to changes in their demand or supply reasonably quickly.
What is AESO’s energy emergency alert Level 2?
- This alert is issued once all steps under level 1 have been completed.
- Operating reserves are being used to supply energy requirements.
- Power service is maintained for all firm-load customers.
- Implementation of load management procedures takes place, including voluntary load curtailment programs, voltage reduction and reduction in non-essential loads.
- Customers who are a part of the VCLP agree to comply with directives for reducing or stopping their power consumption during energy shortfall.
- Public communication requesting customers to voluntarily reduce demand is implemented.
- Ancillary service directives have been issued to supplemental and spinning reserves to increase energy supply and firm load is now relied upon for reserve.
- Emergency energy has been requested from neighbouring control areas.
- Regulating reserve is maintained.
What is AESO’s energy emergency alert Level 3?
- All steps under levels 1 and 2 have been taken.
- Some firm load is curtailed – power service to some customers may temporarily be interrupted to maintain the minimum required regulating reserve and overall system integrity.
- As per directives from the AESO system controllers, distribution facility owners decide which customers are temporarily without power at this point in the process.
What is AESO’s energy emergency alert Level 0?
- This alert terminates previous energy emergency alerts.
- The energy supply is sufficient to meet AIES load and reserve requirements.
How were the EEA levels created and what do they mean?
EEAs, or Energy Emergency Alerts, are a standard terminology defined by the North American Reliability Council (NERC) for communication among coordinating agencies and control centres. It’s used throughout the Western Electricity Coordinating Council, of which AESO is a member. Members of the Western Electricity Coordinating Council include Alberta, British Columbia, the northern portion of Baja California, Mexico and portions of the 14 western states between these areas.
How to read a supply adequacy report
Alberta’s current supply adequacy report can be found on the AESO website. Under each hour, you will see a number from 0 to 4. In the chart below, we’ll explain what each number means:
|0||Not enough supply is available to maintain 3% reserve requirements.|
|1||Not enough supply is available to maintain 6% reserve requirements.|
|2||0 to 200 MW of supply is available in the merit order.|
|3||200 to 400 MW of supply is available in the merit order.|
|4||Greater than 400 MW of supply is available in the merit order|
What are the peak hours for electricity demand in Alberta?
According to the AESO, peak hours of electricity demand are between 4-7 PM.
What should I do under an energy emergency alert?
According to the AESO, Albertans should conserve energy where possible by closing window coverings, lowering thermostats to pre-cool homes and avoiding using major appliances between 4-7 PM.