East River Electric Power Cooperative, which provides power to 24 electric distribution systems and one municipal electric system in eastern South Dakota and western Minnesota, is now supplying the region’s electric cooperative consumers with more than 40 percent carbon-free energy. In 2020, more than 25 percent of East River’s power supply came from wind and more than 17 percent came from hydropower from the dams on the Missouri River. An additional two percent came from carbon-free sources including recovered energy technology and nuclear energy.
As a generation and transmission cooperative, East River receives its power supply from Basin Electric Power Cooperative and the Western Area Power Administration. East River owns and operates over 3,000 miles of transmission lines and 250 substations across South Dakota and Minnesota that safely and reliably deliver low-cost wholesale power to member distribution systems which, in turn, deliver power to homes and businesses in the region.
“Over the past few decades, our cooperative family has been adding renewables to our generation mix using a realistic and fiscally responsible approach,” said East River Electric General Manager Tom Boyko. “If you look back about 10 years ago, just 8 percent of our power supply came from wind. Even more, the percentage of coal in our power supply has dropped 17 percent in the past decade, now making up only about 45 percent. This is a proven, realistic and fiscally-responsible approach of adding renewable energy to our generation mix.”
The trend of increasing renewables is set to continue, with solar energy being added to East River’s generation mix through two new solar projects that were recently announced by Basin Electric. In Feb. 2020, Geronimo Energy, a National Grid company, and Basin Electric announced the execution of a Power Purchase Agreement for the Wild Springs Solar Project, a 128 megawatt (MW) solar energy project that is being constructed near New Underwood, S.D., and is projected to be operational by 2022. Once operational, Wild Springs will be the largest solar project in South Dakota. In June 2020, Basin Electric announced its second solar energy project—the Cabin Creek Solar Project with Clēnera Renewable Energy. When complete, Cabin Creek will consist of two, 75 MW projects in southeastern Montana.
“Our cooperative network is always looking to ensure we have a mix of power resources to meet the needs of our membership and renewable energy is an important part of that strategy,” said Boyko. “These solar projects are important strategic steps as we look to the future in continuing our strong history of providing safe, affordable and reliable power.”
East River Electric’s 57th annual fundraiser to support LifeScape was a success, raising over $37,000. LifeScape is an organization which promotes independence for over 2,500 children and adults with disabilities throughout South Dakota. This year, the event was held as an online auction and an online raffle. Several local businesses generously donated items to the auction and cash to the LifeScape organization.
“The online auction and raffle were very successful and a direct tribute to our employees fulfilling our Touchstone Energy Cooperatives principle of Commitment to Community,” said East River General Manager Tom Boyko. “I want to thank our employee committee who really stepped up and organized the fundraiser. We also want to extend a heartfelt thank you to all the local businesses and member cooperatives that donated items to the auction. Our fundraiser was a success because of your generosity!”
East River’s annual fundraising efforts have helped provide for the very best in medical care, therapy, education and other services for the children at LifeScape. Several local children and people from around the region are served by LifeScape.
The East River Employees Committee donated $1,000, a total matched by East River Electric at $1,000 and matched by Basin Electric at $2,000. CoBank also contributed $2,000 to the event this year. In the 57 years since the East River fundraiser began, more than $335,000 has been raised to help LifeScape provide services to children and adults in rural South Dakota.
PHOTO CUTLINE – LifeScape empowers people to live their best lives.
East River Electric employees continue decades-long fundraiser tradition in a new format
MADISON — East River welcomes the public to support the 57th annual LifeScape Fundraiser on Thursday, April 15. It will be a virtual event instead of an oyster feed this year. “The Employees’ Committee knows the importance of supporting non-profits in our area, such as LifeScape. We knew that even though we couldn’t hold an in-person event, we still wanted to hold a fundraiser for LifeScape,” said Paul Letsche, East River Employees’ Committee chairperson. “We will be holding an online auction with items generously donated by businesses in our community.”
Proceeds from the online auction will benefit LifeScape, formerly Children’s Care Hospital and School and SD Achieve, whose mission it is to empower people to live their best lives. With more than $298,000 contributed to LifeScape over the years, East River’s annual fundraisers have helped provide for the very best in medical care, therapy, education and other services for the children at LifeScape.
“We are grateful for the partnership between LifeScape, East River Electric and the Madison community. It helps transform the lives of children and adults with complex care needs,” said Jessica Wells, LifeScape Foundation president. “This support enables LifeScape’s Journey of Hope to bring increased technology-based solutions, leading research in innovative treatment options and care closer to home. Nearly 1,400 children and adults from the Madison area and within the footprint of East River Electric Coop, will be impacted.”
To participate in the auction, register at the secure site: https://secure.qgiv.com/event/mountainoyster2021/
PHOTO CUTLINE – LifeScape empowers people to live their best lives.
East River Electric Power Cooperative, its power suppliers Basin Electric Power Cooperative and the Western Area Power Administration, along with other utility groups in our region joined the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) in 2015. Before joining SPP, Basin Electric, the Western Area Power Administration and Heartland Consumers Power District worked together to own and operate the bulk transmission grid. There were some benefits and downfalls to operating a standalone grid.
The decision to join the Southwest Power Pool was discussed and studied extensively by these utility groups for years before the systems decided to join SPP. In the end, they joined SPP because it allows these utilities to share generation and transmission resources with other utilities up and down the region in a more efficient manner and provide more reliable electricity to consumers. This decision has also brought financial benefits to consumers across the region.
Specifically for Basin Electric, the cooperative is able to sell generation into the market and East River Electric is able to see a return on transmission infrastructure. It’s led to a multi-million-dollar annual benefit to consumers in the East River footprint alone, with added financial benefits to other member cooperatives in the Basin Electric family. It means ratepayers see the benefit in the form of affordable and stable rates. East River Electric’s average wholesale rate has been stable for several years and has been reduced each of the past three years.
Details on the Southwest Power Pool
The Southwest Power Pool is a Regional Transmission Organization that balances energy generation with energy usage across 14 states from the Canadian border south to Oklahoma, New Mexico and parts of Texas. On a typical day, generation and transmission assets are used in the most efficient way possible by balancing energy generation with energy needs, allowing generation units across the SPP footprint to run and keep the grid stable at the lowest possible cost.
In the Upper Midwest, the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), the federal agency that markets power from the hydroelectric dams, is the Transmission Operator in the region. WAPA operates the bulk transmission infrastructure that delivers power from both WAPA and Basin Electric to East River Electric. East River Electric, which is a Transmission Owner in SPP, operates transmission and substation infrastructure that brings power to local member distribution systems who, in turn, deliver power to homes, farms and businesses.
Several days before we experienced an energy emergency on Feb. 16, the Southwest Power Pool began notifying utilities that forecasted cold weather in much of their service territory could lead to potential issues on the grid. SPP began asking local utilities to start asking their consumers to voluntarily conserve energy to help ease strain on the regional grid. However, because of continued cold weather from Canada to Texas, demand for electricity outpaced generation resources that were available. In an emergency situation, SPP gives WAPA notice that rolling outages are needed with little notice. Then WAPA is required to begin rolling outages which impacts the transmission and substations in East River Electric’s system. When their substations are de-energized, consumers of local member distribution systems experience a power outage. This is what happened in our region on Feb. 16. These short-term outages are needed to protect the rest of the grid from damage and potentially uncontrolled outages that take longer to repair.
Excess generation resources mandated by federal government
Consumers may wonder how a utility group could come up short on the amount of generation needed to meet electric demand. The federal government requires regional transmission organizations to keep an excess of generation in their portfolios specifically for emergency situations. In the emergency that recently occurred, a combination of unfortunate circumstances led to rolling outages. A lack of normal wind energy capacity impacted the amount of generation available. Out of about 27,000 megawatts of wind energy in the SPP portfolio, there were times when the wind towers producing electricity amounted to only around 500 megawatts of the 27,000 megawatts typically available. Natural gas power plants also had issues staying online because of delivery issues, cold weather and a tight supply. Combine those two situations with record-breaking cold weather across the entire geographic region of SPP, electric demand outpaced the generation available.
Benefits for consumers continue
Being a member of the Southwest Power Pool has created many benefits for utilities and their consumers in the region. In times of unplanned outages of generation units in any given area of SPP, they are able to access generation from another area to ensure consumers continue to have power. It has prevented outages in many instances. If a utility’s generation units are unable to run on any given day, for whatever reason (technical malfunction, transmission issues, lack of fuel supply, etc.) they are able to access generation from the Southwest Power Pool to continue the flow of electricity to their consumers. If they were a standalone utility without a shared generation and transmission grid, their consumers would experience an outage until the problem at their generation units was resolved.
Overall, being part of a Regional Transmission Organization like the Southwest Power Pool helps to keep electricity more affordable and reliable for consumers across our region.
This week’s extreme cold temperatures led to historic levels of energy demand on the U.S. power grid resulting in widespread rolling unplanned power outages throughout much of the central portion of the country. The rolling power outages in this region were linked to the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) service area.
SPP is a regional transmission organization that acts as a balancing authority for a 14-state region, meaning SPP balances electricity production and use for that entire area. This is why energy conservation in one place, for example South Dakota, can have a meaningful impact on electric reliability in another, like the panhandle of Texas.
Several wholesale power suppliers in our region are participants and transmission owners in SPP, which means that consumers from multiple utilities—including investor-owned utilities, municipals and electric cooperatives—across our region were affected by the event.
Stress on the SPP system began on the evening of Sunday, Feb. 14 when SPP initiated its tiered Energy Emergency Alert (EEA) system. The alert started at EEA Level 1 on the evening of Feb. 14, which meant that the region’s consumers were asked to conserve energy to help reduce the demands on the power grid and prevent extensive and unplanned outages.
On the morning of Monday, Feb. 15, the extreme cold temperatures continued causing excessive demands for electricity throughout SPP’s footprint. At that time, SPP cycled their alert system between EEA Level 2 and up to EEA Level 3, which meant that there wasn’t enough generation available to meet the demand for electricity. The enhanced alerts on Feb. 15 did not result in outages in our region, but they did bring outages to other parts of SPP’s footprint.
On the morning of Feb. 16, SPP again cycled to EEA Level 3 due to lack of generation to meet demand for electricity in their footprint. Through that Level 3 alert, this region’s system operator, the Western Area Power Administration, was forced to shut off power to various parts of the grid. This resulted in rolling power outages in the service areas of multiple utilities across portions of South Dakota and Minnesota as well as through the entire SPP service area. SPP returned to EEA Level 1 around 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 16. However, they expect continued excessive electricity demand and generation shortfalls through Wednesday, Feb. 17, and caution that their system may need to return to Level 3 at any point.
South Dakota Public Utilities Commission Chairman Chris Nelson joined South Dakota power providers to urge conservancy. “Unfortunately, electricity demand on the grid has outstripped supply in some areas causing unplanned outages,” said the PUC’s Nelson. “These outages are necessary to keep from compromising the entire grid. I continue to encourage South Dakotans to limit their use of electricity wherever possible so that we can restore normal operations as quickly as possible.”
Consumers can do their part by conserving the use of electricity. Tips to conserve energy include turning your thermostat down a few degrees, delaying the use of large appliances and turning off unnecessary lights. Please contact your local electric cooperative for additional ways to conserve energy.
Sioux Falls, SD – Feb. 16, 2021 – Energy grid operators are ordering utilities to implement unplanned power outages to keep the grid stable in this emergency created by widespread frigid temperatures.
Customers may experience outages for up to an hour throughout the day without notice.
South Dakota Public Utilities Commission Chairman Chris Nelson joined South Dakota power providers to urge conservancy. “Unfortunately electricity demand on the grid has outstripped supply in some areas causing unplanned outages,” said the PUC’s Nelson. “These outages are necessary to keep from compromising the entire grid. I continue to encourage South Dakotans to limit their use of electricity wherever possible so that we can restore normal operations as quickly as possible.”
The rolling blackouts are needed to prevent further, more widespread and uncontrolled outages. This is an emergency situation is quickly changing. Please do your part of conserve energy.
NorthWestern Energy, Jo Dee Black, 866-622-8081, firstname.lastname@example.org
East River Electric Power Cooperative, Chris Studer, 605-256-8016, email@example.com
South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, Leah Mohr, 605-773-3201 or 605-280-4327, firstname.lastname@example.org