Through the support and participation of its member cooperatives and associated municipals, Minnkota administers a demand response program that is among the best in the electric utility industry.
Beginning in 1977, the demand response program is voluntary for consumers who allow Minnkota to turn off, by remote control, electric heaters and other interruptible loads in exchange for a discounted retail electric rate. This capability enables Minnkota to more effectively manage its existing power resources and avoid the need to acquire new electric generating resources that would carry a very high cost.
The program is popular with about 50,000 consumers participating. Loads most commonly involved in the program are dual fuel heating systems, water heaters, storage heaters and commercial loads with backup generators. When necessary, nearly 80 megawatts in the summer and 350 megawatts in the winter can be interrupted from Minnkota’s control center in Grand Forks.
As suggested, most of the loads that Minnkota has under control are for heating. Most of these are dual heat systems that use electricity as the main source of heat with backup heat provided by fuel oil or propane when load control is in effect. A properly installed duel heat system automatically switches to the alternate fuel source, requiring no additional work from the consumer.
In addition to the ability to curtail off-peak loads, Minnkota can also buy power from other utilities and the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) wholesale power market during many of its peak load periods. When the price for electricity on the market is affordable, the additional power is purchased and no demand response measures are used. But when market prices are high, off-peak loads are controlled.
Having a highly effective demand response program has been valuable to Minnkota because it has provided a worthwhile alternative to arranging for future power supply requirements. Demand response is a very favorable program for consumers because it has enabled thousands of them to enjoy electric heat and other uses of electric energy at rates that are both affordable and stable.
Minnkota’s ongoing goal is to work closely with the associated systems to provide safe, reliable and stable-priced electric heat to consumers. Even with increased retail electric power costs, the price of off-peak heating remains competitive with alternate heating fuels such as fuel oil and propane.
Learn more about demand response in this Minnkota Current article.