North Star Electric Cooperative purchases wholesale energy and transmission line service from Minnkota Power Cooperative, headquartered in Grand Forks. Minnkota is owned by North Star Electric Cooperative and ten other rural electric cooperatives and associated with twelve municipalities in northwestern Minnesota and northeastern North Dakota. Minnkota is part of the Midcontinent Area Power Pool (MAPP), which includes electric utilities in 11 states and 2 Canadian provinces. All MAPP utilities share generation and transmission lines for reliability and economic purposes.
The basic operating rule in MAPP is that each utility must have accredited generation capacity to supply the electric load of their customers. This basic rule is tempered, somewhat, for “interruptible” loads like off-peak electric heating.
In 1982, a new “Schedule L” rate tariff was implemented by MAPP utilities that allow their load to exceed their generation capacity if the loads are interruptible. A utility’s interruptible electric load that exceeds their generation capacity can be purchased from another utility that has surplus generation available.
It is important that your back-up system is adequate, permanent, safe and dependable. Questions about making your system work properly and conveniently can be directed to our Member Service Department.
Following is a brief summary of the six basic reasons for load control:
REASON 1: 4-HOUR MAPP CERTIFICATION
Before Minnkota can purchase Schedule L energy, they must certify to MAPP they can, in fact, control their load to the level of generation capacity they have in place. This certification usually occurs early in the winter during the first extended period of sub-zero temperatures.
REASON 2: 24-HOUR MAPP CERTIFICATION
In addition to the 4-hour certification, Minnkota must also hold their load at, or below, their generation capacity limit for a full 24-hour period when their system is at, or near, its winter season peak. This certification further assures MAPP that their interruptible load is truly interruptible for an extended period of time in the winter.
REASON 3: SET MINNKOTA BILLING PEAKS
Billing peaks are 3 hours long and serve to distribute many of Minnkota’s costs to the 11 REC’s and 12 municipals that purchase energy solely from Minnkota. The winter billing demand is determined when all interruptible electric load is turned off. Generally, three to five billing peaks are recorded each winter, and the highest three are averaged and used for wholesale billing purposes. Summer billing demand is typically measured over many summer peak periods. The demand measured during these relatively short, but critical, periods has a significant impact on your retail electric rate.
REASON 4: UNAVAILABILITY OF SCHEDULE L ENERGY IN MAPP
In times of extreme cold throughout the Midwest or an outage at a generating plant, utilities may need all their available generation to supply their own demand for electricity. There is simply no available generation for interruptible loads like off-peak electric heat, so Minnkota controls those systems.
REASON 5: THE WIND IS NOT BLOWING
Although Minnkota has met the Minnesota legislative mandate requiring utilities to have at least 25% of their energy from new renewable sources, such as wind energy, to serve load, it is available only when the wind blows. Studies show this occurs most often in the middle of the night, when our demand is at its lowest. The wind also blows more in the spring and fall, again, when our demand for heating and cooling is very low.
REASON 6: HIGH PRICE OF SCHEDULE L ENERGY
The daily market for electricity in the MAPP region is dependent on many factors, but basic supply and demand are the dominant ones. When supplies are tight, price is high. Even though Minnkota could purchase Schedule L energy, they control interruptible loads instead if the price is too high.
REASON 7: EMERGENCIES IN MAPP
Electric utilities in MAPP help each other during transmission system or power plant emergencies. If reducing load in the Minnkota system will help other utilities maintain or restore basic service to their members, Minnkota would use load control to do it. A North Star Electric member is not terribly inconvenienced if they have to use their back-up heating system for a few hours.
North Star Electric members with off-peak electric heating systems, or other interruptible systems, must realize that there will be load control. As electric demand in the MAPP region increases with no new firm base load generation being built, load control will probably increase in future years. The purchase of Schedule L energy by Minnkota may diminish. For these reasons, it is vital that members have a good back-up heating system to keep them warm during control times.