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Our over-the-air radio signal in the Bismarck area is down as a tower crew repairs damage from an ice storm last April. The outage should last a few days.

Rules on electric reliability standards clear a hurdle

Dave Thompson, Prairie Public
North Dakota Public Service Commissioners Randy Christmann (l), chairman Julie Fedorchak and Brian Kroshus

New rules for utilities concerning “standards of service” for North Dakota electric customers have cleared a hurdle.

The rules are being proposed by the North Dakota Public Service Commission. It followed reports of rolling blackouts back in February, caused in part by a cold spell in Texas. Several North Dakota rural electric cooperatives were affected by those rolling blackouts, as electricity was diverted.

The Commission’s proposed rules would not affect co-ops, because the PSC doesn't regulate them. But the Commission said the rules are to help insure North Dakotans who receive their power through investor-owned utilities have reliable service.

The PSC can fine utilities $5000 if problems with reliability are found.

Commissioner Brian Kroshus said this is not designed to punish a company, when the power goes out because of weather events.

"But if they fail in other areas, whether it be maintenance, or not keeping equipment up to date, they could be liable in that sense," Kroshus said.

PSC Chairman Julie Fedorchak said reliability has become a concern, as the power grid is changing.

"We want to be able to have some levers here at the Commission, to work with the utilities directly about how they're doing, and what things are under their control, and what things aren't," Fedorchak said. "We want to be able to work with them on making sure they're doing everything they can to keep the reliability as high as possible."

Kroshus said North Dakota is ranked very highly in terms of electric reliability, with relatively few power outages.

The proposed rules have been approved by the Attorney General. Those rules will now be reviewed by the Legislature’s Administrative Rules Committee.