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Monday, June 27, 2022

MPW prepares protocols for high summer energy demand

Margaret Hurlberthttps://discovermuscatine.com
Margaret Hurlbert works as the Editor of Discover Muscatine Newspaper.

Muscatine Living

MUSCATINE, Iowa–As summer temperatures climb, electricity use often climbs too, as individuals and businesses use air conditioners to keep their spaces cool. To ensure that the electric grid for the Midwest and as far north as parts of Canada and as far south as parts of the Gulf Coast remains reliable, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, or MISO, monitors real-time electricity use compared to the amount of power available from all producers on the grid. Because of heightened demand and a dip in available energy as electric companies begin the process of decommissioning fossil fuel fired plants and replacing them with renewable energy sources, MISO predicts the whole grid may experience instances in with the demand for energy exceeds the amount available. To prevent overloads and widespread outages, MISO may request electric providers to shed load and temporarily shut down some of their circuits, which people often refer to as rolling blackouts.

Because Muscatine Power and Water generates a relatively small amount of energy compared to MISO’s larger members, Muscatine Power and Water Director of Utility Service Delivery Ryan Streck expects Muscatine will feel less of the impact of energy shortages than other places will. However, the possibility that Muscatine Power and Water could have to shed load exists, so he believes customers should understand what that means so they do not get taken by surprise. “It’s really not a local decision at all; Muscatine Power and Water is very able to provide for its customers, but we’re part of a larger region,” he explained. “It’s still unlikely that we have to do this, it’s just less unlikely this year.”

If MISO believes electricity demand could exceed capacity on a given day, they will declare a maximum generation event. First, they will contact their members and confirm their generation capacity for the day so that they truly understand how much energy the grid has available. If they still believe demand exceeds capacity, they will request electric providers to suspend any maintenance or testing that could reduce the amount of power available. MISO will then ask utilities to put out a call for voluntary load reduction, where they encourage customers to reduce demand by turning their thermostats to a higher temperature, not leaving their refrigerators open for longer than necessary, and not running large appliances like electric stoves, dishwashers, and dryers during peak hours (usually before 8 p.m.).

Only if all of these previous measures do not bring demand down enough will MISO require an energy provider to shed load. If Muscatine Power and Water receives a request to shed load, they must comply immediately. After taking a small portion of their grid offline, they will announce it through their social media, website, and on local radio stations. Each individual load shed outage will last for only an hour. If MISO still requires Muscatine Power and Water shed load, they will restore the first circuit they took down and take another one down for another hour until energy supply matches demand. To ensure the safety of Muscatine residents, Muscatine Power and Water will make sure certain critical circuits, including those that feed UnityPoint Trinity Muscatine Hospital and the public safety building downtown never get taken down during a load shed. “The potential for rolling blackouts sounds scary, but it’s really a controlled process,” Streck emphasized.

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