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N.C. Governor calls for 'complete report' on Duke Energy Christmas Eve blackouts

Will there be too much demand? Power lines near Redondo Beach, Calif.
Gerard Burkhart
AFP/Getty Images
Will there be too much demand? Power lines near Redondo Beach, Calif.

Power is restored across North Carolina, but Gov. Roy Cooper wants to know why Duke Energy cut off power to hundreds of thousands on the coldest day of the year with little or no warning.

"Duke Energy assures me NC is in the clear now. But I’m deeply concerned about people who lost power and who didn’t get notice about rotating outages. Grateful for those who conserved energy. I’ve asked Duke for a complete report on what went wrong and for changes to be made," Cooper said Monday, in a tweet.

The problems started early Saturday, on Christmas Eve. Temperatures plunged to the single digits across the state. Duke Energy said this led to high demand on the power grid, and the company started rolling blackouts in order to compensate.

Although Duke Energy said the outages would last 15 to 30 minutes, many customers reported on social media that their power was off for hours. Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks acknowledged that the outages were, in some cases, lasting longer than expected.

"Temp[orary] outages have lasted longer in some instances than originally communicated. We apologize for this inconvenience and have been working to manage extremely high demand for power in record temps, and are doing all we can to restore power safely and as quickly as possible," Brooks tweeted Saturday afternoon.

At one point, more than 100,000 customers in the Charlotte region were without power, and roughly half a million customers were cut off across the state. Duke Energy had not said beforehand that cutting electricity would be a possibility Saturday.

Although Duke Energy asked customers to conserve power Sunday and Monday, widespread intentional outages were not reported again.

Cooper also said he had spoken to Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good to "express urgency about the need to restore power quickly in this extreme cold while keeping customers accurately informed."

The Christmas Eve blackouts occurred as North Carolina regulators are entering the final week to approve a new carbon plan for Duke Energy. That plan will determine how much and how fast Duke Energy has to shift away from power sources that release heat-trapping pollution. And it's only weeks since attacks on two Duke Energy substations in Moore County left some 45,000 customers without power for up to five days.

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