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The Cracked Acorn: Life

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In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me.”

I mention the situation of Terri Schiavo. This medical case appeared to be headed to the highest court in the land, the U.S. Supreme Court. After 15 years in a persistent vegetative state (PVS), is it time to answer the plea of her husband to take her off life support and end her life? Many were for it, and many were against it. Is it possible that she could have gained consciousness and her health? It is a question that my 2 1/3 lb. brain ponders.

Karen Ann Quinlan – she collapsed into a PVS in April 1975. When life support was removed, she lived in a coma for ten more years – 1985. Nancy Cruzan – a 1983 car accident left her as a PVS. In Cruzan vs. Missouri, life support was removed, and she died in January 1991. Hollywood tries to touch on these situations – see CHARLEY, SOLENT GREEN, and the Eastwood movie – MILLION DOLLAR BABY. How does one leave this life with dignity? Do you have the answer?

Adam was created from the dust of the earth (Genesis 2:7), and Eve from a rib. They ate the fruit in the Garden of Eden and were destined to live forever, but Satan intervened. Out of the garden, they were no longer eternally young. Cain kills Abel and death is on the scene for the first time. After that, we see that people of the Old Testament did live a long time, Methuselah the longest at 969 years. (Genesis 5:25) After every recorded name, their age is stated, and they die. The New Testament promises us threescore and ten, which could be longer.


We all hope that we will never have the “plug removed.” Cryogenics holds the hope that we can be frozen until a cure is found for what ails us. We are looking to the future. The military is researching a computer-driven robot that will map, then perform delicate and precise operations on wounded soldiers. The wounded can be completely healed and back on the battlefield within a few days. These discoveries will surely spill over into civilian life and add years to the population. Another possibility is that aging may eventually be slowed or stopped, all due to the unfolding mystery of cell research. Cells may soon be “triggered” to grow any part or organ of the body. Society lives with the false hope that our mortal bodies can achieve immortality here on earth. This will never happen. We will never return to the garden of Eden with the sin that holds us down. (Hebrews 12:1)

When Jesus said, “I have come, you may have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10). He was not talking about a home forever in this physical arena. Many today seek the Savior to return and reign here as King. While Jesus was here, He could have healed everyone that was sick and blind, and lame. He only did this for a few. He offered us something far better and more lasting than this body. God is a spirit, and we, His children, will have a new body. (Revelation 2:10)

THE END I KNOW IS NEARING, BY FAITH I LOOK AWAY, TO YONDER HOME SUPERPERNAL, THE LAND OF ENDLESS DAY; I’LL CLING TO HIM FOREVER AND LOOK BEYOND THE SKY, AND LIVE WITH HIM FOREVER IN GLORY BY AND BY. (Songs of FAITH and PRAISE)

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4 steps to help you choose the right camp

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Although there are still a few months left in the school year, it’s time to start thinking about where to send your child to camp on summer break. Follow these steps to choose a camp to make your child’s summer enjoyable and memorable.

1. Determine your needs
Would you prefer to enroll your child in a day or summer camp? Does your child need to be dropped only off for a few days, or must they be there for most of the summer? These two questions will help you narrow down the list of potential camps.

2. Talk to your child
Your child knows best what they want. For example, ask your child what activities they’d like to try this summer, like cooking, archery, and science experiments. The activities offered can vary greatly from camp to camp.

3. Narrow down your options
Research and identify camps that meet your needs and will appeal to your kids. Rule out camps that are too far away or don’t fit your budget. Don’t hesitate to contact the organizers for more information.


4. Ask your child to make the final decision
Unless only one camp meets your requirements and matches your child’s interests, make a list of possible choices. Invite your kid to make the final decision.

Don’t wait until the last minute to register your child for a camp. Spots fill up fast!

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Why Self-awareness Is Essential For Any Entrepreneur Or Business Owner

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Self-awareness is an essential aspect of every business owner’s life. While some people might think they are “self-aware,” they have little understanding of self-awareness. Many people have heard of “self-awareness” but do not understand what it means. If you are one of those people who don’t understand self-awareness, read on to better understand what it means.

Are you stuck in your ways? Do you lack the ability to change? Do you have the mindset that you can’t improve? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it might be time to take a step back and evaluate yourself.

It’s easy to focus on the negative and not see the positive in yourself. We often get so caught up in the day-to-day grind of life that we forget to look at the bigger picture. The biggest mistake you can make is not evaluating where you are, where you want to go, and what you need to do to get there.

You will have so much potential by taking a step back and evaluating yourself. You will also discover that you are capable of more than you ever thought possible.


Take Stock Of Your Potential

The world doesn’t always make sense to you, and that’s okay. You’re not alone; you don’t have to be there forever.

If you feel like you’re stuck in the middle, then that means that you’re on the right track. It would be best to find out where you are at this particular moment and understand where you want to go. Then, you need to figure out how to get there. You must identify what you want and ensure you have the tools. If you don’t, you’ll likely not achieve what you want.

You need to take stock of your capabilities and then use that to plan how you’ll get there. If you don’t, then you’re just wasting time and energy. You may be able to do much more than you realize, and you might be surprised at your capabilities and how far you can go. Many people have been through the same struggles as you and have succeeded in the long run.

Look at all the people ahead of you in your life, and see how they made it work. Study their lives and how they got to where they are today, and try to learn from them.


The idea of potential is excellent and applies to almost anything you do in life. You never know what you can do until you give it a shot. Successful people often keep a list of all the things they want to do before they turn a certain age, and they note all the things they are capable of achieving. You must take stock of what you can accomplish to improve your success rate. You need to think of some big dreams and goals and how you plan to make them come true.

This is important because once you’ve figured out what you can do and how you plan on accomplishing these things, then you’ll be able to make some informed decisions about how to go about reaching your potential.

You might want to think about the things you want to accomplish in life before you’re too old to do them and figure out how you’ll get there. Do you need a lot of training? Are you going to need to change careers to get to your goal?

These are all questions that you need to consider if you’re going to be able to achieve the things that you want to accomplish in life.


Double down On Your Expertise

Success is never about luck, and in fact, it’s usually about your hard work, determination, and mindset that allows you to succeed.

But if you don’t have the right mindset, it can hinder your chances of success. For example, you could be in the right place at the right time, but you’ll never be prepared if you’re not thinking about what will happen after that. That’s why you need to focus on your expertise and skills. You should also be looking forward to opportunities that will help you grow and develop in your chosen field.

Successful people have always realized this and have done well in life and business. They’ve had a plan and followed it, and that’s why they’ve been able to make a living doing what they love. If you want to become successful, you need to work on your own skills and learn how to improve your weaknesses to become an expert in your field.

Remove Your Weaknesses To Enhance Your Expertise

One thing that you’ll find when you start analyzing your personal life and how you’ve been living is that you’re not sure what you’re good at and what you’re not good at. You might even have specific areas of weakness in your life that you don’t even know you have. For instance, maybe you don’t have the best relationships, or perhaps you don’t have the best leadership skills.


Maybe you’re an overthinker or don’t care about much of anything. If this sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone.

Even though it might not be your strength, you need to address it. If you want to be a leader, you will need to be able to lead.

If you want to improve your relationships, you will need to learn how to have good conversations and listen to what other people say. You might need to know how to get along with other people and figure out ways to get along with them without being a jerk.

You might make bad decisions based on ignorance when you go through life. You should take time to analyze your situation and what you need to do to change that.


You need to stop trying to be someone you’re not and instead focus on being the kind of person you’d want to be around. It would be best to lead a positive life that will allow you to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

You do that by improving on the areas of your life that you’re not as good at. You’ll be surprised that it’s not as complicated as you think. You’ll have to identify what you’re not good at and then improve on it. When you do, you’ll be surprised that your expertise improves daily.

It’s like taking a test that you’re going to get regularly. As you practice, you’re going to get better at it, and you’re going to be able to accomplish things that you wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. You might even end up in situations where you need to ask for help or even pay others to do things for you. That’s not a weakness; that’s a part of growing and learning.

Self-awareness Is The Foundation Of Success

Self-awareness is essential to any entrepreneur or business owner, so you should start working on it now. If you want to create your own business, you should know that self-awareness is the key to success. You need to understand your strengths and weaknesses to make the most out of yourself, especially when it comes to your business.

Self-awareness is essential to entrepreneurship.

Without it, you won’t be able to see the mistakes you make and how to improve. This is especially true regarding relationships, finances, and marketing. Without self-awareness, you’ll waste money and time, not to mention alienate people you’re trying to build relationships with. It will also make it harder for you to improve your skills because you’ll never be able to accurately evaluate where you’re lacking.

A business reflects the people that run it, so it’s essential to be aware of the areas you need to improve. This will allow you to develop strategies to overcome weaknesses and maximize your strengths.

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Republican senator breaks with GOP to oppose 15-week abortion bill in Virginia

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Despite backers characterizing Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s proposal to largely ban abortions after 15 weeks in Virginia as “a consensus” position, a Senate panel Friday rejected it, with one Republican joining unanimous Democratic opposition.

“I wish I could vote for this bill,” said Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico, a practicing OB-GYN who proposed an amendment to the administration bill that would have allowed exceptions up to 24 weeks for fetuses with severe abnormalities. “But without that exception, I’m going to have to vote” against it.

The Friday morning votes on three bills that would have restricted to varying degrees Virginia’s current abortion laws were not binding: The Democrat-dominated Senate Health Professions Subcommittee only has the power to recommend legislative positions to the larger Health and Education Committee. But they signal little appetite among Democrats to brook any change to the state’s abortion laws, which allow the procedure through the first and second trimesters with few restrictions and permit it in the third if three doctors decide that continuing the pregnancy would pose a risk severe risk to the mother.

Dunnavant called that law “extreme,” arguing Virginia is out of step with laws across the U.S. and Europe as well as medical science on fetal age of viability. Under her Senate Bill 1483, abortion would remain legal up to “viability,” defined as 24 weeks or “at least 22” in the estimation of three doctors. Dunnavant’s bill would also require abortions to be performed only in hospitals, mirroring the current law on the second and third trimesters.


Abortion would also be allowed if the pregnancy was nonviable and going forward with it “would substantially and irremediably impair the physical health of the woman.”

From start to finish, 2023 will be a big year for abortion policy in Virginia

“The public opinion is in favor of not having an abortion in the third trimester,”  Dunnavant said.

The two other Republican bills up for consideration Friday would go further. Sen. Steve Newman’s Senate Bill 1385 — the bill being backed by the Youngkin administration — would prohibit abortion after 15 weeks unless the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest or would result in the death of the mother “or substantially and irreversibly impair” her “bodily functions,” not including “psychological or emotional conditions.”

“We think we have what’s a carefully crafted bill that also supports mothers,” said Newman, who called the proposal a “middle ground” that provides “common-sense protection for the unborn.”


Sen. Travis Hackworth’s Senate Bill 1284, which he described as “a life at conception bill,” offered the most restrictive option, banning all abortion except in cases where the mother’s life is at risk or prior to 20 weeks if an official police report has been filed alleging rape or incest occurred.

“When Roe v. Wade was overturned, I knew this was the bill I had to put in,” he said. Pointing to unanimous support last year for legislation to impose stricter regulations on a controversial beagle breeding facility in Cumberland County that has since been shut down, he told the Senate panel, “I hope we can be as passionate in saving the lives of the unborn children as we were for the beagles last year.”

Witnesses turned out to argue both for and against the three measures, with supporters focusing on fetal pain and opponents contending the proposals would interfere with the patient-doctor relationship.

Several women pointed to their own experiences as instructive. One woman who identified herself as Molly said she had considered abortion but was glad she decided to continue with the pregnancy.


“When I took my pregnancy test, I could never have imagined all the wonderful support I’ve gotten,” she said.

Jessica Gertz, a Richmond doctor, told the Senate panel she had undergone an abortion at 21 weeks after finding out her fetus had severe abnormalities that could have left it unable to breathe or without a heartbeat after delivery.

“Make no mistake, the bans proposed today are aimed at people exactly like me,” she said.

Lawmakers on the subcommittee had a little discussion on the three measures before voting 6-3 to recommend that Hackworth’s and Newman’s bills be rejected by the larger committee and 5-4 to recommend the rejection of Dunnavant’s.


 

by Sarah Vogelsong, Virginia Mercury


Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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From start to finish, 2023 will be a big year for abortion policy in Virginia

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When former Virginia Sen. Jen Kiggans was running for Congress last year, she sidestepped questions about her stance on abortion by saying it’s up to states to decide, not the federal government.

That answer isn’t really an option for Republican Kevin Adams, who’s running in a special election this week to replace Kiggans, a Republican, in a swingy state Senate district based in Virginia Beach and Norfolk.

In a matter of weeks, the winner of that contest could potentially be voting on Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s proposal to ban most abortions in Virginia after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Democrats and abortion-rights proponents are eager to remind voters of that fact, even though the odds of a dramatic shift in abortion policy remain slim in a General Assembly under split political control. However, that could change in 2024 if Republicans win anti-abortion majorities in both legislative chambers in November’s General Assembly elections when all 140 seats will be on the ballot.


The Senate special election Tuesday will be the first major indicator of how abortion politics could play out in post-Roe Virginia, where abortion remains legal. Still, Republicans are close to having enough power to pass stricter limits on how far into a pregnancy the procedure is allowed.

In the open Senate seat race, the Democratic candidate, former Virginia Beach city councilman Aaron Rouse, is running a TV ad that riffs on his earlier career as an NFL safety, promising to be the “last line of defense” for abortion rights if elected.

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, whose PAC is putting $100,000 behind Rouse, is investing “a lot more resources and time and attention” in the special election than it would under normal circumstances, according to Jamie Lockhart, the group’s executive director.

“We know that every single seat matters,” Lockhart said. A Rouse win, she added, “would ensure that no abortion ban would get to Gov. Youngkin’s desk.”


Rouse successfully flipping the seat would lift Democrats’ hopes that protecting abortion access is a potent issue that could help the party bounce back from its unexpected losses in 2021. An extra Democratic vote in the state Senate, where Democrats had a 21-19 majority last year, would also make it nearly impossible for Republicans to pass new abortion restrictions in the session that begins Wednesday.

A victory by Adams, a retired Navy veteran whose website says he supports a 15-week limit and laws that “respect the rights of the mom and baby,” could signal to Republicans that pushing for tougher abortion restrictions isn’t as perilous as some might think for GOP leaders trying to govern a politically split state. But even if Adams wins, the legislative math won’t get any better for Republicans than it was last year, when the Republican-led House of Delegates chose not to press the issue, knowing any anti-abortion bills would fail in the Senate.

Currently, state law allows largely unrestricted access to abortion in the first and second trimesters of pregnancy. Abortion in the third trimester, which begins around the 28th week, is allowed only when three doctors agree continuing the pregnancy poses a severe threat to the mother.

Republicans have advocated for an earlier cutoff at 12 weeks, 15 weeks or 20 weeks, proposals often based on disputed theories about when a fetus can feel pain.


When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Roe v. Wade precedent last year, giving states more power to restrict abortion, Youngkin said he would “take every action that I can to protect life” and indicated he was convening a group of Republican lawmakers to work on legislation for the 2023 session.

“We can build a bipartisan consensus on protecting the life of unborn children, especially when they begin to feel pain in the womb, and importantly supporting mothers and families who choose life,” Youngkin said in a news release at the time.

The governor has said he supports exceptions for cases of rape and incest and when the mother’s life is at risk. It’s unclear how lenient or limited those exceptions might be, because the administration-backed legislation has not yet been filed for public review.

Because almost all elective abortions happen in the early stages of pregnancy, the vast majority of abortions currently performed in Virginia would still be allowed under a 15-week limit. According to CDC data from 2019, 97.5% of abortions performed in Virginia occurred within 15 weeks. More recent data from the Virginia Department of Health show that more than 95% of the 16,252 abortions reported in Virginia in 2021 occurred during the first trimester. Still, a stricter cutoff raises fraught questions about what options would be available to women who find out something has gone wrong late in pregnancy.


“A ban is plain and simple,” said Lockhart. “The goal of this ban, as with all abortion bans, is to stop people from accessing essential health care.”

Republicans have pressed Democrats to explain exactly where they think the cutoff for elective abortions should be, at times pointing back to a controversial but failed Democratic bill from 2019 that would have loosened restrictions on abortion in the third trimester.

“Is the other side of the aisle all at 40 weeks?” Del. Emily Brewer, R-Suffolk, said in an interview. “I think that’s the most pertinent question to which I want an answer.”

Several Democrats have said they support the existing law, which restricts abortion access after 27 weeks.


The Republican abortion restrictions expected to be filed for the upcoming session differ greatly in terms of severity and impact. Hard-right Del. Marie March, R-Floyd, has introduced a total abortion ban via a bill that declares “life begins at conception” and repeals every provision of state law authorizing abortion. Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, has indicated she intends to file similar legislation in the Senate.

Some conservatives, including Virginia Rep. Bob Good, R-Campbell, have criticized 15-week laws as not going far enough.

Todd Gathje, director of government relations for the Virginia anti-abortion group The Family Foundation, said his organization intends to support both a ban beginning at conception and a less drastic 15-week cutoff due to “certain political realities.”

“There are those within the pro-life community who recognize that politically and legislatively, things have to be done incrementally given the dynamics within the state legislature,” Gathje said. “At the end of the day, we want to do whatever we can to save as many pre-born babies as possible.”

Acknowledging it’s unlikely that any new abortion restrictions can pass in 2023, Gathje said there are other steps the legislature could take toward the goal of making abortion “unthinkable,” like providing more support for new mothers.

“It’s vitally important that the legislature really looks at proposals that help provide financial resources and information to mothers both pre- and post-birth,” Gathje said.

Before going to the Senate floor, abortion bills go through the chamber’s Education and Health Committee, where Democrats have a 9-6 majority. The committee’s chairwoman, Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, has repeatedly promised to stop anti-abortion bills that get to her docket.

The Democrats’ Senate blockade isn’t a sure bet, however, because Sen. Joe Morrissey, D-Richmond, has expressed unpredictable but generally conservative views on abortion. In a recent interview with Richmond TV station WRIC, Morrissey said he would take an “open mind” approach to abortion bills that come up this year.

Even if the bills are blocked in committee, there are ways Republicans could try to force a vote on the Senate floor, either by amending a different bill or by adding language to the state budget.

If Morrissey were to vote with Republicans in a floor vote, a 20-20 tie could be broken by Republican Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears. A 20-20 tie becomes even less likely if Democrats win the Virginia Beach race because, with 22 seats, the caucus could still prevail with one defection.

If Senate Democrats fail to flip the Virginia Beach seat and have the same 21-19 Senate majority they had in 2022, the expected departure of Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, could be another complicating factor.

McClellan, one of the legislature’s top abortion-rights champions, is the heavy favorite to win a Feb. 21 special election for the Richmond-area congressional seat left vacant by the death of former Rep. Donald McEachin. The General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn on Feb. 24 and return on April 12 to take up Youngkin’s vetoes and amendments.

If McClellan wins, Democrats could potentially be down to just 20 votes on at least some legislative business, depending on when she resigns her seat and is sworn into the U.S. House of Representatives.

In an interview, McClellan said she’s confident the timing of her election to the higher office won’t disrupt any votes during the regular session, which will likely end before all the paperwork is complete to certify the congressional election results.

“But Aaron Rouse is going to win,” she said. “And with a 22-18 majority, whenever I leave, things are going to be fine.”

McClellan said she expects her caucus to hold firm on any anti-abortion bills coming over from the House.

“I’m not going to take anything for granted,” McClellan said. “But I am confident that Senate Democrats will block any efforts to roll back reproductive freedom.”

 

by Graham Moomaw, Virginia Mercury


Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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As another winter storm strains the electric grid, it’s time to fix transmission, experts say

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The deadly winter storm, christened Elliott by the Weather Channel, that tore through much of the United States over the Christmas weekend placed a huge strain on the American electric grid, pushing it past the breaking point in some places.

In some places setting records, Frigid temperatures drove a surge in electric demand while also causing big problems for gas, coal, and other power plants that took electric generation offline when needed most. That forced some southeastern utilities to cut power to thousands of people on a rotating basis and led grid operators to urge customers to conserve power.

“Supply and demand for electricity have to balance in real-time exactly,” said Michael Goggin, a longtime electric industry analyst and vice president at Grid Strategies, a consulting firm focused on clean energy integration. “If not, the grid can collapse in a matter of seconds.”

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation announced Wednesday that they will open a joint investigation into the power system’s performance.


“There will be multiple lessons learned from last week’s polar vortex that will inform future winter preparations,” said Jim Robb, president, and CEO of NERC. This nonprofit regulator sets and enforces reliability standards for the bulk power system in the U.S. “This storm underscores the increasing frequency of significant extreme weather events (the fifth major winter event in the last 11 years) and underscores the need for the electric sector to change its planning scenarios and preparations for extreme events.”

But for some experts, a significant lesson from the storm is already plain, and it’s the same as learned in past severe winter weather: The U.S. grid needs to be better connected to enable power to be moved easily to where it’s needed in moments of crisis.

“Although this was a massive event that ultimately affected huge parts of the country, there were geographic elements to it,” said Ari Peskoe, director of the Electricity Law Initiative at Harvard Law School. “The attention belongs on the transmission system.”

The storm

John Moore, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the storm was unusual in several aspects, including the rapid drop in temperatures triggered by a blast of arctic air pushing down from Canada far into the American South, the rapid strengthening called “bombogenesis,” and the heft of the pressure behind the system, which he said set a record in Edmonton, Canada.


“It’s a very broad system with many impacts associated with it. … The cold air with this one was a little bit stronger than we usually see this time of year,” Moore said.

According to preliminary data, the storm caused temperatures to drop 37 degrees in one hour at Denver International Airport and set temperature records in Wyoming and Montana.  As it moved east, it caused a deadly blizzard in the Buffalo area that claimed at least 40 lives and wreaked havoc on the electric grid.

“There were likely other records set across the South and East Coast,” Moore said.

Outages

Though hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses were left without power because of normal storm calamities such as downed power lines, many other customers in the Carolinas and the Tennessee Valley Authority service territory, which includes most of Tennessee and parts of Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Virginia and North Carolina, saw outages because of the strain struggling power plants and surging demand placed on the grid.


 

(Map courtesy of Tennessee Valley Authority)

 

“What we saw was concerning,” said Goggin, who was monitoring data from many of the significant regional transmission organizations hit by the storm. “You saw high unplanned or forced outages of power plants of many types but primarily fossil.” He said that the extreme cold also shut down many natural gas production wells, which limited pipeline supplies that feed power plants.

“We’ve seen a number of events like this where the extreme cold disrupts the gas system, which then cascades to the power system,” he said.

Tennessee Valley Authority

On Dec. 23, with demand climbing past 33,000 megawatts (its normal December demand is around 24,000), the TVA, for the first time in its 90-year history, instituted load shedding — temporary controlled outages — and urged customers to conserve electricity. The service interruptions ended on Dec. 24, with the TVA saying it had supplied more power over the previous 24 hours than ever before to meet an all-time peak winter demand. POWER magazine also quoted a TVA spokesperson saying that a “limited number” of power plants in TVA’s territory “did not operate as expected during this event resulting in a loss of generation.”


“We at TVA take full responsibility for the impact we had on our customers,” the authority said in a Dec. 28 statement. “We are conducting a thorough review of what occurred and why. We are committed to sharing these lessons learned and — more importantly — the corrective actions we take in the weeks ahead to ensure we are prepared to manage significant events in the future.”

In an email to States Newsroom Thursday, a TVA spokesperson could not say how many customers were affected nor provide any information on why power plants weren’t able to perform, citing the ongoing review.

In the Memphis area, where Memphis Light, Gas, and Water is the TVA’s largest customer, more than 30,000 customers were affected, local station WMC-TV reported. The Chattanooga Free Press reported on Christmas Eve that the TVA had lost about 6,000 megawatts of generation the day before at coal and gas plants.

“Until the review is completed over the next few weeks, any discussion on individual plants would be inappropriate because it would just be speculation on our part,” TVA spokesman Scott Fiedler told States Newsroom. “As the wholesale power provider, we instruct our 153 local power companies to reduce load. They implement the process to limit the impact on their customers. We expect customers were affected by 15-30 minutes in a rolling fashion as LPCs implemented curtailments.”


Duke Energy

Duke Energy, one of the nation’s largest utility companies, was forced to cut power to about 500,000 of its customers in North Carolina and South Carolina on Dec. 24, with the last seeing power restored by about 6 p.m., spokesman Jeff Brooks said.

“We made this difficult decision to protect the electric grid and reliability on our system and to avoid a potential longer or broader outage to customers,” he said.

Another Duke Energy spokesman told States Newsroom in November, in response to a report by NERC that its service territory might be vulnerable to electric outages in the event of extreme winter weather, that the company was “ready to meet the energy needs of our customers every day, regardless of the weather.”

Brooks said the company is still examining generation performance during the storm and assembling information for regulators and couldn’t provide more details on what type of power plants failed to perform.

“It was a combination of generation on our system that was either reduced or unavailable that evening, coupled with the inability to import additional electricity from out of state (which is something we can typically do to add to our native generation) that resulted in the need to initiate temporary outages,” Brooks said, noting that solar wasn’t a factor because it was dark when the outages were initiated. As of 2021, wind, solar and hydroelectric power made up just 7% of Duke’s company-owned output.

“We did believe that we had adequate generation going into Friday evening to meet the forecasted demand for electricity,” Brooks said. “That demand ultimately came in higher than we forecast.”

PJM

Faced with plunging temperatures, surging power demand, and some power plants struggling to perform, PJM, the nation’s largest grid operator, issued a call for customers to conserve energy a day before Christmas Eve. The call came as a surprise for electric industry experts.

In a winter reliability assessment, NERC said that PJM — which coordinates the movement of electricity for 65 million people in all or parts of Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia — “expects no resource problems over the entire 2022-23 winter peak season because installed capacity is almost three times the reserve requirement.”

But a big portion of that excess electric generation capacity was struggling to produce power, said Michael Bryson, PJM’s senior vice president of system operations.

“We saw pretty significant generation outage data coming in, failing to start or tripping offline, far exceeding our ability to keep up,” Bryson said. In its request to the Department of Energy for a temporary waiver of environmental rules for generation units, PJM said its peak load, or electric demand, exceeded 135,000 megawatts on Dec. 23, while about 45,000 megawatts of generation were out or underperforming. (PJM lists about 185,000 megawatts of total generation capacity)

Bryson said in an interview that the performance problems affected coal, gas, and nuclear plants. Wind, which makes up the majority of renewable energy in PJM’s generation mix (though it is dwarfed by coal, gas and nuclear) performed well during the storm, Bryson said. He said he had not had the chance to review how solar energy fared during the event.

“We’ll be working through those issues unit by unit over the next week,” he said, adding that power plants that failed to meet their performance criteria risk financial penalties.

In addition to participating in the NERC-FERC inquiry, “we’re going to kick off a pretty comprehensive lessons-learned session ourselves,” Bryson said, including examining the organization’s own extreme cold electric load forecasting. He said PJM’s forecast was low by about 7 to 10% on Dec. 23.

Creating a grid ‘bigger than the weather

Peskoe, the director of the Electricity Law Initiative at Harvard, and Goggin, the energy consulting firm executive, said that too often, in the aftermath of major storms that stress the power grid, one form of generation comes under fire.

“Extreme weather like this does affect all generation sources,” Goggin said, though it appeared that renewables, which don’t need coal piles that can freeze or pipelines that can be curtailed by cold, largely fared well during the storm.

But the real task for the people in charge of the nation’s electric grid is to grow a “bigger than the weather” transmission system, as Goggin put it.

“When you do that, it allows you to bring in power from areas that are less affected,” he said. “Having a large grid that allows you to move power around as events like this unfold provides a lot of value.”

Goggin said he monitored data from the regional transmission organizations affected by the storm, including the Southwest Power Pool and MISO (Midcontinent Independent System Operator), neither of which had to resort to rolling outages, and noticed that wind electric prices in those markets plunged to very low or even negative levels. That means there wasn’t enough transmission capacity to get a large amount of electricity the turbines were producing to where it was needed.

“That power would have been extremely valuable in locations farther east, but it couldn’t get out of the wind-producing areas,” he said.

Simon Mahan, executive director of the Southern Renewable Energy Association, a trade group for large renewable energy and energy storage companies, said the storm showed how critical interconnection between regions is for reliability and how vulnerable parts of the southern electric grid are to severe winter weather like the catastrophic grid collapse Texas saw in 2021.

“Being connected with our neighbors is exceptionally important,” he said. “If we weren’t connected with MISO and PJM, things would have been a disaster. … Winter Storm Elliott is kind of that storm that showed that the rest of the Southeast is vulnerable like Texas was.”

Mahan noted that the storm raised transparency issues as well, with real-time data on generation and load coming in from areas controlled by regional transmission organizations like PJM and MISO but not so much from areas controlled by the TVA or monopoly utilities like those owned by Duke in the Carolinas and Southern Company in Alabama and Georgia.

“It’s very easy to see where there are problems. But in the Southeast, because there’s so little transparency, it’s hard to see,” he said.

A proposal to streamline transmission planning

The storm came as FERC is weighing a major proposed rule on streamlining regional electric transmission planning and cost allocation and taking broader benefits into account. And it comes less than a month after a FERC-led meeting on potentially requiring a minimum amount of interregional electric transfer capability — electricity that can be moved between regional transmission systems —  for public utility transmission providers. Supporters described it as an “insurance policy” in the event of grid crises like extreme weather.

“One thing that I hope is explored as people try to dissect what happened is what would the value have been of interregional transfer capability during this event,” Peskoe said.

FERC Commissioner Willie Phillips, at the meeting, said better transfer capability can improve reliability and resilience and lower costs for customers by allowing them to access cheaper electricity and accommodate more renewable power.

“Given the likelihood of future extreme weather events and related generation shortfalls, many stakeholders have been asking us to do something,” Phillips said. “Winter Storm Uri and the 2014 polar vortex have shown that greater interregional transfer capability has a significant reliability benefit.”

Not everyone was a fan of the idea, though. Tricia Pridemore, chair of the Georgia Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities, said states like Georgia that are not part of regional transmission organizations don’t need a new transfer requirement, citing the state’s utility planning process and cooperation with other southeastern utilities.

“Our bottom-up approach maintains reliability and does not put upward pressure on rates by constructing unnecessary or duplicative transmission assets,” she said. “Georgia is better for maintaining a safe, reliable, affordable system all while not being told to do so from a top-down governance structure.”

According to the federal Energy Information Administration, Georgia is one of the more expensive states in the South regarding average residential and retail electric prices. Pridemore’s commission just approved a big rate hike for the state’s dominant utility, Georgia Power.

“The reality is during the storm, and this past week after the storm, Southern Company and Georgia have really relied on imports from MISO and a significant amount of power from Canada that has been brought into MISO,” Mahan said. “It’s pretty incredible how Canada is helping keep the power on in places like Atlanta.”

 

Robert Zullo, Virginia Mercury


Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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Shenandoah Valley road conditions improve – but flash freeze is on the way

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Most roadways in the Shenandoah Valley and Alleghany Highlands are clear on Thursday evening, December 22. The morning’s wintry mix has melted from interstates, primary roads, and most secondary routes. But additional snowfall is forecast for early Friday morning, followed by extreme cold that will quickly freeze wet roads.

The Virginia Department of Transportation advises against non-essential travel on Friday due to expected black-ice conditions. Bridges and overpasses freeze first, sometimes creating an icy glaze even when roadway approaches are just wet.

Those who must drive on Friday should use extreme caution and always wear a seatbelt. Motorists should pack an emergency kit and blankets or extra layers of clothing and have mobile devices fully charged in case of a vehicle breakdown or emergency.

Here are the conditions in the VDOT Staunton District as of 4:30 p.m. Thursday:


Interstate 64 – Clear conditions in Alleghany, Rockbridge, and Augusta counties.

Interstate 66 – Clear conditions in Warren County.

Interstate 81 – Clear conditions in Rockbridge, Augusta, Rockingham, Shenandoah, and Frederick counties.

Primary roads – Clear conditions in Alleghany, Bath, Rockbridge Highland, Augusta, Rockingham, Page, Shenandoah, Frederick, Clarke, and Warren counties.


Secondary roads – Moderate conditions in Shenandoah County. Minor conditions in Highland, Frederick, and Warren counties. Clear conditions in Alleghany, Bath, Rockbridge, Augusta, Rockingham, Page, and Clarke counties.

Statewide road conditions and traffic cameras are at http://www.511Virginia.org. For a detailed winter weather road conditions list, click “Text Views” on the orange bar atop the page. Then click on “Road Conditions Table” and use the pull-down box to select individual counties and cities. Roads with snow conditions will be marked minor, moderate, severe, or closed.

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Aders Insurance Agency, Inc (State Farm)

Aire Serv Heating and Air Conditioning

Apple Dumpling Learning Center

Apple House

Auto Care Clinic

Avery-Hess Realty, Marilyn King

Beaver Tree Services

Blake and Co. Hair Spa

Blue Ridge Arts Council

Blue Ridge Education

BNI Shenandoah Valley

C&C's Ice Cream Shop

Card My Yard

CBM Mortgage, Michelle Napier

Christine Binnix - McEnearney Associates

Code Ninjas Front Royal

Cool Techs Heating and Air

Down Home Comfort Bakery

Downtown Market

Dusty's Country Store

Edward Jones-Bret Hrbek

Explore Art & Clay

Family Preservation Services

First Baptist Church

Front Royal Independent Business Alliance

First Baptist Church

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Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce

Fussell Florist

G&M Auto Sales Inc

Garcia & Gavino Family Bakery

Gourmet Delights Gifts & Framing

Green to Ground Electrical

Groups Recover Together

Habitat for Humanity

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House of Hope

I Want Candy

I'm Just Me Movement

Jen Avery, REALTOR & Jenspiration, LLC

Key Move Properties, LLC

KW Solutions

Legal Services Plans of Northern Shenendoah

Main Street Travel

Makeover Marketing Systems

Marlow Automotive Group

Mary Carnahan Graphic Design

Merchants on Main Street

Mountain Trails

Mountain View Music

National Media Services

Natural Results Chiropractic Clinic

No Doubt Accounting

Northwestern Community Services Board

Ole Timers Antiques

Penny Lane Hair Co.

Philip Vaught Real Estate Management

Phoenix Project

Reaching Out Now

Rotary Club of Warren County

Royal Blends Nutrition

Royal Cinemas

Royal Examiner

Royal Family Bowling Center

Royal Oak Bookshop

Royal Oak Computers

Royal Oak Bookshop

Royal Spice

Ruby Yoga

Salvation Army

Samuels Public Library

SaVida Health

Skyline Insurance

Shenandoah Shores Management Group

St. Luke Community Clinic

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The Institute for Association & Nonprofit Research

The Studio-A Place for Learning

The Valley Today - The River 95.3

The Vine and Leaf

Valley Chorale

Vetbuilder.com

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Settle’s Kettle @ Sky Meadows State Park
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The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
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