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Reliability is Paramount to Our Cooperative

Graphic illustration of a map of the United States with SPP footprint highlighted in red.
This map highlights the SPP footprint. (Source: Southwest Power Pool)

In early May, the North American Electric Reliability (NERC) released a report outlining their 2022 Summer Reliability Assessment.

In the report, NERC raised concerns regarding several regional transmission organizations (RTOs) and their challenges related to electric generation and transmission this summer.

This month, I wanted to take this space to discuss what it all means and how Woodbury County REC is working with its industry partners to address these issues.

NERC's Summer Reliability Assessment

NERC placed Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) in a "high risk" category for electric generation/capacity shortfalls this summer. RTOs Southwest Power Pool (SPP), the Western Interconnection, and ERCOT (Texas) were identified as "elevated risks."

NERC outlined the following factors leading to these risk levels:

  • Storm damage to a key SPP transmission line.

  • Above-average temperatures and drought contributing to high demand and lower than average output from hydro generators.

  • Supply chain challenges leading to difficulty securing fuels and other key resources.

  • Cybersecurity threats.

What does this mean for Woodbury County REC?

The way we generate electricity is rapidly changing. More and more, renewable energy sources like wind and solar power are coming online, while traditional sources like coal, nuclear and natural gas are being retired. Woodbury County REC believes and advocates for an “all-of-the-above” energy approach. “All-of-the-above” promotes the idea that the US depends on a reliable and sustainable fuel supply that includes developing and incorporating domestically produced renewable energy resources to supplement baseload generation that includes biofuels, natural gas, nuclear, hydropower, and coal.

In May, SPP, Woodbury County REC's RTO, reported that they project enough generation to meet summer peak demand. However, that doesn't eliminate the risk of an isolated energy emergency alert (EEA) that could be prompted by a weather event, as we encountered in February 2021. Winter Storm Uri produced prolonged arctic cold that negatively impacted generation resources in the SPP footprint. SPP mandated WAPA, NIPCO’s Transmission Operator, to curtail load in our service territory.

It's important to remember that the electric grid is made up of thousands of generating stations and millions of miles of line. A power plant outage or natural disaster could have an impact on SPP's projections. Woodbury County REC,NIPCO, and NIPCO’s primary power provider Basin Electric Power Cooperative are well-positioned to meet this summer's peak demand. And, as we have always done, we will communicate potential issues with you as they arise.

What is Woodbury County REC doing?

We continue to work with policymakers and regulators on a state and federal level for a sensible “all-of-the-above” generation approach.

The ongoing energy transition must recognize the need for time, and technology development while including all energy sources to maintain reliability and affordability. A resilient and reliable electric grid that keeps the lights on is not only paramount to what we do but serves as the cornerstone of our rural economy.

Electric cooperative families and businesses rightfully expect the lights to stay on at a price they can afford. To maintain the reliability of your power supply, we must adopt an “all-of-the-above” strategy that includes renewable energy as well as dependable resources we have come to rely on like coal, natural gas, nuclear, and hydropower. This diverse energy mix is essential to meeting those expectations day in and day out.

We are keenly aware that the sun doesn't always shine, and the wind doesn't always blow. While we support and encourage the development and use of renewable energy, the intermittent nature of renewables means there may be times when there simply isn't enough of it to keep the lights on all the time. Its place is to supplement a reliable and affordable baseload generation mix. That's why we must continue to recognize the value of and operate baseload generation plants now and into the future.

After the February 2021 event, we worked with our power provider and regional transmission organization to refine communication processes and emergency operations procedures. We are better equipped to respond and communicate potential EEA events impacting our service area, should they arise in the future.

Our mission remains the same. We are here to provide you with safe, reliable, and affordable electricity that is also environmentally responsible. We will continue to advocate on your behalf and do everything we can to continue to live up to that mission.

What is NERC?

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) is a not-for-profit international regulatory authority whose mission is to assure the effective and efficient reduction of risks to the reliability and security of the grid. NERC develops and enforces Reliability Standards; annually assesses seasonal and long‐term reliability; monitors the bulk power system through system awareness; and educates, trains, and certifies industry personnel. NERC's area of responsibility spans the continental United States, Canada, and the northern portion of Baja California, Mexico. NERC is the Electric Reliability Organization (ERO) for North America, subject to oversight by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and governmental authorities in Canada. NERC's jurisdiction includes users, owners, and operators of the bulk power system, which serves nearly 400 million people.

What is an RTO?

Many electric utilities across the country are members of one of nine regional transmission organizations (RTOs) and independent system operators (ISOs), also referred to as power pools. These entities are federally-regulated by FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) and work on a regional scale to coordinate, control, and monitor supply and demand on the electric grid. RTOs do not own the power grid, but they do work as "air-traffic controllers" of the grid to ensure reliable supplies of power, adequate transmission infrastructure, and “day-ahead” electric market coordination of wholesale electricity prices on behalf of their members.


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