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  • Posted: 07.06.2022

In early May, North American Electric Reliability Corporation (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.

I wanted to share with you what it all means and how Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative 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 MISO transmission line connecting the MISO northern and southern areas.
  • A capacity shortfall in MISO, driven by peak demand increase and less generation capacity than last summer.
  • 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 your Cooperative?

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. Your Cooperative believes and advocates for an all-of-the-above energy approach. All-of-the-above promotes the idea the United States depends on a reliable and sustainable fuel supply that includes developing and incorporating domestically produced renewable energy resources to supplement baseload generation including biofuels, natural gas, nuclear, hydropower and coal.

In May, SPP, Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative's RTO, reported 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 our power supplier, Corn Belt Power and Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), which is Northwest Iowa Power Cooperative's (NIPCO) Transmission Operator, to curtail load in our service territory.

It's important to remember 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. Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative, Corn Belt Power, NIPCO and Basin Electric Power Cooperative, our generation and transmission cooperatives' primary power providers, 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 Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative 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 affordably keeps the lights on is 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 meting those expectations day in and day out.

We are keenly aware 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 operate and recognize the value of baseload generation plants now and into the future.

After the February 2021 event, we worked with our power providers and regional transmission organization to refine communication processes and energy operations procedures. We are better equipped to respond to and communicate potential EEA evens 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.