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Problems with generators contributed to need for blackouts, says Duke Energy

High-voltage power lines in northern Mecklenburg County.
David Boraks
High-voltage power lines in northern Mecklenburg County.

Duke Energy is now acknowledging the need for rolling blackouts on Saturday didn’t just arise from high demand, but also reduced capacity at its facilities.

Utility spokesperson Jeff Brooks says as temperatures plunged into the single digits on Christmas Eve, output from some plants decreased and some units were offline due to planned maintenance.

“We reduced operations in some instances because of the weather. But we also had some generation that was either out for planned maintenance or for other maintenance activities that was separate from that,” says Brooks.

WRAL-TV first reported the problems with those generator units on Wednesday.

Going into Friday evening Brooks says the utility believed it still had enough resources available to meet increased customer needs.

“There were some fast-moving and dynamic things that happened in the overnight hours,” says Brooks.

That included companies the utility relies on when it needs additional energy were also strained. Those orders from independent power producers and out-of-state purchases fell through.

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.

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 with little notice.

The utility is assessing what went wrong and plans to present its findings to the North Carolina Utilities Commission next week.

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Lisa Worf traded the Midwest for Charlotte in 2006 to take a job at WFAE. She worked with public TV in Detroit and taught English in Austria before making her way to radio. Lisa graduated from University of Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in English.