MESSAGE FROM GENERAL MANAGER & CEO, CHRIS TACKMANN
Although the official start to summer is still weeks away, a mid-May heatwave hit Oakdale Electric Cooperative’s (OEC) service territory. Dormant air conditioners weren’t the only things being put to the test as record heat melted the region. The regional electric grid, managed by MISO (Midcontinent Independent System Operator), was strained with high electricity demand and limited generation resources. Dairyland Power Cooperative (DPC), which is our wholesale power provider, is part of MISO.
On May 12, MISO declared a Maximum Generation (Max Gen) Warning. MISO uses Max Gen procedures to help address grid constraints. In some circumstances, system conditions during a Max Gen scenario will call for electricity demand reduction measures, such as the use of our load management program. On this day, OEC worked closely with DPC to be prepared in case there was a need to reduce our cooperative’s electricity demand. Luckily, we did not have to do anything further than to prepare.
Experiencing a Max Gen Warning so early in the season could be a sign of things to come. A press release from MISO in late April, and the short-term outlook from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, warn of a potential shortage of available generation resources during peak electricity demand this summer.
Some key reasons for the shortfall include:
- Higher, volatile natural gas prices in the United States.
- Coal-fired and nuclear power plant retirements outpacing the installation of new generation resources.
- A significant amount of new generation resources coming online are wind and solar, which are intermittent and not always readily available.
- Electricity consumption continues to return to pre-COVID-19 pandemic patterns, increasing in the commercial and industrial sectors.
This deficit leaves MISO’s North and Central regions – the regions where we live – at an increased risk of rolling blackouts to help keep the grid online. OEC has an emergency load reduction plan in place to help eliminate generation capacity shortages that will be implemented if needed. Essentially, this plan would cause us to rotate power through our different substations/territory areas. Different zones in OEC’s membership territory would have their power cycled on and off for a certain period of time. This would continue until we received an all clear message from MISO and DPC. Members would be notified of us implementing this with as much notice as possible via social media, website, local radio stations, and other local media.
While I hope that we never reach the need to implement a full Max Generation Event, I want to inform you that there is a possibility. Though these potential circumstances are unfortunate, the future of Oakdale Electric Cooperative is innovative and we will stay dedicated to providing for our members.