May 20 Meeting to Explore Lessons Learned from Power Outages

May 20 Meeting to Explore Lessons Learned from Power Outages

NHA thanks our sponsors:

American Hydro

In February 2021, three severe winter storms swept across the United States, causing a major electric power outage in the state of Texas. Over 4.5 million homes and businesses were left without power, many for several days. Just six months earlier, in California, electric power to hundreds of thousands of consumers was interrupted owing to extreme heat.

From these electric power outages, much is being learned. That will be a major point of discussion during the National Hydropower Association’s Southwest Regional Virtual Meeting on May 20, 2021.

The meeting’s agenda includes a panel of experts to discuss the recent outages in Texas, lessons learned, and how hydro and pumped storage can be part of the solution to ensure reliability of electricity delivery to consumers, even in the face of severe weather.

Registration for the meeting is now open.


Featured on the panel to discuss electric power outages is Carrie Bivens, Vice President at Potomac Economics. Prior to joining the independent market monitoring firm, Bivens spent 13 years at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), including a role as Director Of Wholesale Operations. She brings a unique perspective to the May 20 panel.

On the final day of the February cold snap, when power prices reached a peak of 450 times the usual price, Bivens recommended that the Public Utility Commission “correct ERCOT’s real-time prices” in a letter to state regulators, adding that the “prices are inconsistent with ERCOT’s protocols and the Commission Order and that allowing them to remain will result in substantial and unjustified economic harm.”

These inflated prices resulted in operators overcharging wholesale electricity customers by a whopping $16 billion, due to ERCOT’s failure to bring prices down in time. However, these overages reflect only a fraction of the costs incurred by generators, distributors, and retailers of electricity.

Potomac Economics has estimated the total real-time market costs on the Texas grid to be closer to $47 billion over the span of less than a week (February 14 – 19, 2021). Compare this to the real-time market cost for all of 2020, which was about $10 billion.

In addition to Bivens, other participants in the May 20 panel to share insights on the value of hydro to grid resiliency include:

  • Tony Back, Manager of Hydro Operations & Maintenance, Grand River Dam Authority, which owns the Salina pumped storage project
  • Don Erpenbeck, Vice President, Power & Dams, Stantec

Debbie Mursch, Director Of Business Development For Hydro at GE Renewable Energy, is moderating the panel.


In addition to the Power Outages panel, the meeting agenda also includes a presentation from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on the historic on-going drought on the Colorado River Basin. Other topics are: trends in rehabilitation of hydro projects and an update from Capitol Hill.

During the meeting, NHA also is presenting its annual Past Presidents Legacy Scholarship to a deserving undergraduate university student.

Registration for the Southwest Regional Virtual Meeting is open. Cost is: $199 (individuals working for NHA member organizations are eligible for a $100 discount.)


The content for this Regional Meeting was created by a steering committee made up of industry leaders and representatives from project owners and operators, as well as service and product suppliers. Steering committee members represent: Bowersock Mills & Power Company, Bureau of Reclamation, Mesa Associates, Stantec, Black & Veatch, GE Renewable Energy, Emerson, American Hydro, HDR, Andritz, and Voith.

The 2021 Southwest Regional Virtual Meeting is sponsored by American Hydro, Andritz, Black & Veatch, Emerson, GE, HDR, Kleinschmidt, Mavel, Mesa Associates, Stantec, Troutman Pepper, Turbine Pros, and Voith.