WED AM News: PSC’s Nowak says blackouts unlikely without ‘perfect storm’ despite grid operator warning

Exclusively for WisBusiness Subscribers

Access the mobile version of the News Summary:

The Phelps Hamus Group I Ameriprise Financial Ad
The Phelps Hamus Group I Ameriprise Financial

From …

— PSC Commissioner Ellen Nowak says brownouts and blackouts in Wisconsin are highly unlikely without a “perfect storm” of major issues with the state’s power grid.

Nowak in a Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce virtual event yesterday said a combination of extreme electricity demand, significant unplanned outages, catastrophic weather events and other extreme conditions would have to take place at the same time for a brownout or blackout to occur. With Wisconsin’s current flexibility in electricity generation from various sources, Nowak said blackouts are unlikely despite Midwest Independent System Operator officials’ warnings earlier this month.

MISO is responsible for managing the power grid across most of the Midwest.

Nowak said blackouts and brownouts are more likely in the summer months as air conditioning systems tax the grid more than in winter months, but she’s still not panicking.

“I am not hitting the panic button, but it is a wake-up call,” she said. “And it’s a wake-up call, I think, to the pace of the transition that we’re seeing in the energy industry. And I think it’s a good reality check about how the actual system works, versus what perhaps that political rhetoric would like it to be.”

She added MISO’s warning of possible rolling blackouts in Wisconsin this summer came because of only a slight increase in risk. Even though the warning was the first ever such warning MISO issued for Wisconsin, Nowak said it’s not a guarantee.

“It has to be a perfect storm. … I mean, the reality is, we’re always at risk for a blackout or brownout, right,” she said. “There could be a catastrophic weather event combined with an unplanned outage any day of the week or year that could cause this.”

She also said some Wisconsin residents may see a slight increase in utility prices, but much of that is likely to come from increasing fuel prices being passed on to consumers.

Nowak said much of MISO’s warning came because several gigawatts of power generation that were expected to come online this year did not. That means the predicted power generation when MISO-served states were bidding on their share of the power supply never came to fruition, leaving all 15 states and the Canadian province of Manitoba with less power to consume than originally expected.

Energy companies’ decisions last week to delay retiring several coal-fired power plants gave Wisconsin’s power grid more flexibility over the next few years to keep up with demand as the state moves toward more renewable energy production, she said.

Transitioning to more renewable energy production such as wind and solar would also require more transmission lines between production sites to help better distribute power. Because changing weather conditions mean solar and wind power production are not completely reliable all the time, the power grid would need to expand to offer more flexibility in where electricity can be transferred, according to Nowak.

— Gov. Tony Evers and the Department of Financial Institutions have announced a new program aiming to improve Wisconsinites’ financial wellbeing.

The program is a collaboration with the Financial Fitness Group, a financial education solutions software company, and the Governor’s Council on Financial Literacy and Capability.

The new program is intended to “raise awareness among employers and employees of the importance of financial literacy.” In the first phase, about 30,000 state employees will be given access to an online platform to learn about finances.

The second phase of the program will begin in early 2023 and aim to reach 500 employers and more than 100,000 employees by 2025.

Evers said the state has a responsibility for helping Wisconsinites build a successful financial future.

“This new, dynamic program will help folks build a financial plan that works for them and their families, and in doing so, will help set them on a trajectory to meet their financial goals – whatever they may be,” Evers said.

DFI Secretary-designee Cheryll Olson-Collins said financial education is critical for people facing difficult financial decisions.

“Building financial literacy and capability is about people and giving them the tools and resources they need to reach their own financial goals, dreams, and security,” Olson-Collins said. “Helping people make well-informed financial decisions is key to improving the quality of life for all Wisconsinites.”

— A researcher at the Marquette School of Dentistry has received a $1.45 million NIH grant to study the effects of aging on oral health.

Dr. Mariana Reis received the Pathway to Independence Award from the National Institutes of Health. Reis will use this to study the effect aging and periodontal disease has on oral health in living organisms.

Her research project will focus on how cementum, the connective tissue that provides support in attaching the tooth to the gum and absorbs the pressure of chewing, is affected by aging and periodontal disease. Periodontal diseases are mainly caused by infections and inflammations of the gums and bone that surround and support the teeth.

“The underlying functional properties of cementum with aging are unclear,” she said. “Through this project, I hope to build a foundation for understanding mineral-to-matrix interactions and their probable roles in the functionality and regeneration of mineralized tissues.”

The Pathway to Independence award will span seven years, including the first two under mentorship and the final five in the independent phase.

For more of the most relevant news on COVID-19, reports on groundbreaking health research in Wisconsin, links to top stories and more, sign up today for the free daily Health Care Report from and

Sign up here:

— Join, and the Wisconsin Technology Council for a free virtual luncheon today from noon to 1 p.m. CT on what the Biden administration’s new Asian trade framework means for Wisconsin businesses.

The panel discussion, led by Wisconsin Tech Council President Tom Still, will include: Katy Sinnott, vice president of Global Trade and Investment with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation; John Ohnesorge, George Young Bascom professor at UW-Madison and director, East Asian Legal Studies Center, UW Law School; and Ralph Inforzato, chief executive director of the Japanese External Trade Organization (JETRO) in Chicago.

Sign up here:

Wisconsin REALTORS Association Ad
Wisconsin REALTORS Association

University Research Park Ad
University Research Park


Xcel Energy Foundation provides $305,000 in area nonprofit grants

Despite Biden order, solar supply chain problems stall Wisconsin’s energy transition

WisBusiness sponsors

The Phelps Hamus Group I Ameriprise Financial logo
The Phelps Hamus Group I Ameriprise Financial

Madison Gas & Electric
Tech Council logo
Wisconsin Technology Council
URP logo
University Research Park


– Marketbasket report shows July 4th picnic remains affordable

– Wisconsin Center expansion construction progresses with start of concrete decking

– Madison School Board approves 22-23 budget, 3% base wage increase

– Wisconsin regulator downplays blackout risk, calls for continued use of fossil fuels

– Wisconsin’s youngest are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, but availability is not universal

LABOR ^top^
– Can ‘third spaces’ lure remote workers back to downtown Milwaukee?

– As metals for renewables drive mining growth, Komatsu debuts its new $285M plant

– Milwaukee Regional Medical Center proposed for site of state crime lab, medical examiner

– Apartment developments in Third Ward, Iron District advance

RETAIL ^top^
– Deal or no deal? Possible outcomes as Kohl’s, Franchise Group near end of exclusive negotiations

– Kroger’s automated grocery delivery warehouse now open in Pleasant Prairie

– Three engineering siblings launch a company and the home-built airplane of their dreams

– Amazon prepares to go electric in a big way with delivery vans at Racine County hub

– State urged safety up improvements for site of fatal Amtrak wreck

– Nearly 1 million Wisconsin residents are expected to travel over July Fourth weekend, the most since 2001; gas costs around $5 a gallon

– Clarios of Glendale is latest advertiser on Milwaukee streetcar

– “Abandoned”: Gas and grocery inflation hit Kenosha food deserts

See these and other press releases:

– Fox World Travel: Named ‘best travel agency’ throughout Wisconsin
– North Shore Bank: Names Michael Murphy as new Vice President of Consumer Lending
– Xcel Energy Foundation: Provides more than $300,000 in area nonprofit grants