Sustaining a Reliable Electric System
We’ve all heard the phrase, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” This popular adage is often used in conversation or a story when someone is about to do something foolish or risky. If they heed this advice, it means they did not commit to “one basket”, but instead hedged their bets with multiple options.
This strategy is how I describe Union County Electric Cooperative’s common sense approach to the current energy transition. We know that consumer interest in renewable energy continues to grow. We’ve seen this trend here in South Dakota.
Recent innovations and advances in renewable energy technologies have led to sharp decreases in costs, making renewables more feasible, accessible and scalable. Over the last few years, Union County Electric has adjusted our fuel mix by utilizing more renewables, and today, nearly 50% of our fuel mix is comprised of renewable energy, the majority of which is wind. That’s an increase of around 35% compared to 22 years ago.
Nationally, there is increasing reliance on renewable energy sources at the same time that we’re seeing fossil fuel plants taken off-line, often ahead of schedule. Additionally, we’re seeing more pressure on the electric grid due to the increasing frequency and intensity of severe weather events and rising electricity demand.
So how do we reconcile these challenges of grid pressure and a changing fuel mix? Solar and wind energy are certainly beneficial for the environment, but they are limited resources because the sun does not always shine, and the wind does not always blow. Our primary responsibility is to provide electricity 24/7 to you and our community. To do this, we need reliable sources of power that will meet all the peaks and valleys of on-demand energy in our connected world.
So where are we netting out? That’s where our familiar adage comes into play. While utilization of renewables is increasing, we still need to incorporate other forms of energy in the mix to ensure reliable service. Remember, solar and wind are intermittent power sources. This fact coupled with the growing demand for renewables creates its own challenges.
That’s why we spread our eggs into multiple baskets. There is great value in maintaining a diverse mix of fuel sources––fossil fuels and renewables to ensure reliability, resiliency and meet the growing demand for electricity.
Reliability also means repairing and replacing utility equipment to prevent wear-and-tear, ensuring our equipment can withstand severe weather. We are laser-focused on providing our Union County Electric Cooperative members with reliable, high value energy that is produced in the most environmentally friendly way possible. That’s why fuel diversity––or placing our eggs in multiple baskets––is essential to reliability.
The Bottom Line
Lowering the overall carbon footprint in this country means we’re going to electrify more and more of our economy. Solar and wind power are an important part of a broader energy portfolio, but they are not available 24/7. In today’s ever-connected world, people need power around the clock.
As our nation increasingly depends on electricity to power the economy, Union County Electric is working to anticipate, plan and respond to market trends and policy shifts. That’s how we can power your home and our economy, while continuing to serve as your local energy provider.
Finally, I hope to see you all at our Annual Meeting on March 25th at Immanuel Lutheran Church. We will do a drive through style meeting, like we have done the past few years. So, I hope you stop by to ask us any questions and get registered for some great prizes. See you there!
Until next month, stay safe and God bless.
Quote of the Month: “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves” – Viktor Frankl – Author, Psychiatrist