Cooperatives handle the heat, even during the hottest times of the year

by David Saggau, Great River Energy (GRE) president and CEO

David Saggau

As the summer began, you may have heard news about a shortage of electricity in the Midwest or concerns about the stability of the electric system.

While it was true there was less surplus energy that we typically have, the Midwest electric system still had nearly 8% more electric generating capability than required to meet the expected demand.

In Minnesota, the situation is even better. All utilities in the state, including Great River Energy, have more electric generating capacity than required. As expected, the electric system performed reliably throughout the summer season, keeping members cool and comfortable even during prolonged heatwaves.

When service interruptions do occur, they are typically due to weather events resulting in physical problems with the system, and not a lack of planning for adequate supply. As the electric industry continues to transition to more renewables and we face the impacts of more extreme weather events, Great River Energy is focused more and more on resiliency.

In emergency situations, the region’s grid operator calls on additional power supply resources, imports energy from other regions and performs voluntary load reductions to manage the electric system. Temporary controlled manual load sheds, or periodic power outages, are used as a last resort to keep the system in balance.

The reliability of the electric system is paramount to electric cooperatives. Great River Energy and Steele-Waseca Cooperative Electric operate and maintain an electric system that is dependable today and carefully planned to be resilient as we continue to make and use electricity in new ways.

Great River Energy is transitioning the way we generate electricity by reducing the use of fossil fuels and adding cost-effective renewable resources, such as wind energy. These resources require no fuel, which makes them environmentally responsible and economically advantageous. Because their production depends on the weather, however, we must have a dependable backup plan to reliably meet the needs of our members.

We plan power supply resources 15 years in advance to ensure we have what we need to serve members. Furthermore, every spring the team at Great River Energy performs detailed maintenance on our fleet of natural gas and fuel oil powered “peaking” power plants in preparation for response to the peak needs of the system. These plants can produce electricity in a matter of minutes when needed.

In addition, GRE methodically designs, plans and operates a system of transmission lines that can handle high heat and elevated electricity demand. We also work with Steele-Waseca to reduce electricity use during strategic times to provide relief to the grid and ultimately save members money.

 As a member of Steele-Waseca, you are served by Great River Energy’s diverse and flexible portfolio of resources to ensure you have the energy you need, all year round.