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Polar Vortex Shows Importance of the MISO Coal Fleet

Last month’s polar vortex hit the upper Midwest with near-record cold weather, as temperatures dropped below minus 20 degrees F in Chicago, Minneapolis and elsewhere across the region.  Power demand spiked accordingly.  As a result, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator—MISO, the grid operator responsible for delivering electricity to much of the affected region—was forced to follow emergency procedures to maintain grid operations on the coldest days of January 30-31.[i]  To its credit, MISO kept the lights on because it was able rely on a diverse electricity portfolio that includes coal, natural gas, nuclear and renewables.  But what would happen during a future polar vortex if MISO’s portfolio becomes less diverse than is it now?  After all, almost 15,000 megawatts (MW) of coal-fired generation in MISO will have retired by 2020.[ii]


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