Thousands of Northern Electric members work together every month to save each other money. It is called load management and your friends and neighbors have teamed up to voluntarily enroll their water heaters, grain bin fans, and irrigation systems in the program.
The co-op load management program has been around for more than 30 years and has saved co-op members in the region more than $260 million in avoided wholesale power costs since it started in 1985. East River Electric Power Cooperative in Madison operates the load management system. East River is the wholesale power provider to 24 electric cooperatives – including Northern Electric – in eastern South Dakota and western Minnesota.
So, what is the co-op load management program? Load management is a way for local electric cooperatives to cycle large electric loads – like water heaters, grain bin fans, and irrigation systems – on and off during times of peak demand on the system. A signal is sent out to thousands of receivers throughout the region to turn off large electric equipment and appliances.
There is a common misconception that load management is implemented throughout the month because there is a ‘shortage’ of electricity. However, there is plenty of power and that is not what load management is designed to do. It is designed to help co-op members avoid paying high wholesale costs for electricity when demand is at its peak. It is like postponing a road trip to Sioux Falls or the Twin Cities until the fall to avoid paying high gas prices during the summer. In that scenario, there is plenty of gasoline to purchase for your vehicle, but the prices are higher in the summer because there is more demand during the busy travel season.
The co-op load management program has been around for more than 30 years and has saved co-op members in the region more than $260 million in avoided wholesale power costs.
Since East River delivers wholesale power to electric cooperatives throughout the region, East River also keeps a close watch on the demand for electricity so it can deliver the best value to its members. When demand for power is high it engages the load management system to keep electric use down and keep power prices steady. It is the simple principle of supply and demand and it is designed to save Northern Electric members money.
Northern Electric members are leaders in load management and you should feel proud that you are doing your fair share to contribute to the savings. Northern Electric has more than 5,500 control devices connected to load management which adds up to more than 70 megawatts of electric load that can be managed every month. That is about the same amount of electricity it takes to power 14 ethanol plants. Northern Electric is not the largest electric cooperative among the 24 East River co-ops but we do have the most electric load per member connected to the load management system.
So, the next time your water heater or grain bin fan cycles on and off, remember that you are playing a big part in keeping power costs down for yourself and for your friends and neighbors. One or two members can not do it by themselves, but collectively co-op members are saving millions of dollars by enrolling in a simple but effective program known as load management. It is a prime example of the cooperative way of doing business.
By: Ben Dunsmoor