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Load management

Load management or demand response is a strategy that Great River Energy uses to reduce the demand for electricity during occasional “high demand” periods such as hot summer days. Demand response helps Great River Energy to avoid the building of high-cost peaking plants or the purchase of high-cost energy in the wholesale market. Over 200,000 of our members’ members participate in Great River Energy’s demand response programs through one of our member cooperatives.

Here’s more about why we conduct load management »

The cost of electricity is constantly changing. The kilowatt-hour delivered at dinner time is far more expensive than the one delivered at midnight. Our load management programs exist to take advantage of that cost difference. These programs help members install equipment that stores less expensive off-peak energy as well as controlling appliances to reduce energy consumption during the most expensive hours.

Members that participate in the demand response programs are essentially allowing Great River Energy to “control” or “cycle” their air conditioner, water heater or some other load for a period of hours on high demand days, which typically occur on hot summer days. For their inconvenience – which is often not much of an inconvenience at all, the member receives a reduced electric rate from their retail distribution cooperative.

Some examples of our demand response programs include:
  • Cycled air conditioning
  • Peak shave water heating
  • Controlled irrigation

Great River Energy purchases all of its energy from the Midwest Independent Service Operator (MISO) energy market. MISO is responsible for matching the amount of electricity generated to the amount being consumed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. As consumers consume more electricity MISO must increase the number of generators needed to supply that energy. As more and more generators are brought online, the price of electricity increases. Load management programs allow us to influence the amount of load consumed during peak times. Great River Energy and our members offer a number of different programs that allow end-users to take advantage of this opportunity. Interruptible programs turn appliances off during peak demand times. Electronic thermal storage (ETS) programs use low cost off-peak energy to heat water or ceramic bricks to store energy for use during the day when the heat will be used.

Summer control

The graph below is an example of a very hot summer day. The red line is Great River Energy’s member consumption at each hour of the day. The purple line is what Great River Energy would have had to supply if interruptible load management programs were not used to reduce member consumption; a difference of more than 300 megawatts at the time of peak consumption. The blue line is the price of electricity. You will notice that the control period covers the most expensive hours of the day, shifting that consumption to less expensive hours. In the summer months this peak reduction is accomplished by interruptible programs that control air-conditioners, crop irrigators, water heaters, and commercial generators. You will also notice that we are adding load in the middle of the night. This load is added because of our ETS programs. If we didn’t offer ETS programs this middle-of-the-night load would have occurred during higher priced hours in the middle of the day.

Winter control

The next graph shows a very cold winter day. In the winter months Great River Energy experiences two peak consumption times; one in the morning and one in the evening. These peaks are driven primarily by heating. Programmable thermostats are entering occupied mode, water heaters are generating more hot water and a higher demand is placed on our other appliances as we prepare for the day and return home from work. We are able to avoid a greater deal of on-peak consumption in the winter by storing energy in member installed ETS appliances. The water and ceramic bricks are able to store hundreds of megawatt hours each day. Without these programs in place we would have to purchase more expensive on-peak energy. Great River Energy also offers interruptible programs in the winter months. Members with electric heaters that still maintain a non-electric alternative qualify for our Dual fuel program. During times of high consumption and high electric prices, Great River Energy will interrupt the home’s electric heat and switch the home over to a non-electric heat source, typically propane.

Members participating in load management programs benefit in many ways. Additionally, participating in load management programs benefits everyone by enabling Great River Energy to minimize high cost energy purchases which helps manage the rate paid by our members.

Learn more about our load management programs  »

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