• When Is Missouri’s Electric Grid at Peak Use?

    Missouri’s infamous weather can change drastically in a single day, so our Missouri Electric Cooperative Member-Owners know brutal heat waves and bitter cold equally well. Our weather may be unpredictable, but that doesn’t mean that your electricity consumption is. In fact, our Member-Owners use power in a pretty predictable way.

    Summer and winter are the two seasons of the year that put the most demand on Missouri’s electric grid, but certain times of the day during the spring and fall also bring increased demand. Keep reading to learn more about your peak times for power usage, and about how your Cooperative’s diverse portfolio of generation and transmission assets work together to keep your power on all year long.

    Missouri summers aren’t just hot: they’re also humid. Running your air conditioner helps keep your family safe from extreme temperatures, and it also helps reduce mold and mildew by reducing the humidity in the air.

    Not surprisingly, summer is one of the hardest seasons of the year on Missouri’s electrical grid (and on your pocketbook). Our Member-Owners hit peak load between 8:00 and 10:00 a.m. and again from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. during the summer months.

    Learn more: Energy Saving Tips for Summer

    At the highest points during those peak hours, Missourians use nearly 3,000 kWh at a time from the grid — that’s nearly twice as much power as we use during our slowest times of the year (overnight in the Spring).

    (Tip: Your power bills will reflect the amount of power you use, so expect your bill to be nearly twice as high during the hottest months of the year as it is in the mildest.)

    Winters in Missouri can be very cold, and daylight hours are limited. From 7:00 to 10:00 a.m. and again from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., your family is among thousands of other families across the state who are using more power than at any other time of day. That’s when Missouri’s grid hits its wintertime peak load, and it’s the second time of year when your bills are likely to be high. 

    Learn more: Six Ways to Save Money on Your Home Heating Bill This Winter

    This “double humped” peak (morning and night) occurs before sunrise and after sunset, when the sun isn’t there to warm your home or business. Peak usage in summer and winter is comparable, hovering at around 2,900 kWh on average.

    (Tip: You can ease the burden of that power use on your electric bills by budgeting in the milder months for higher bills in summer and winter.) 

    Spring and Fall
    Spring and Fall are kinder in Missouri than summer or winter are: temperatures are milder and humidity is lower. Families who live in well-insulated, efficient homes might even be able to leave the heater and air conditioner off for much of the spring and fall.

    Peak load in the spring is much lower than peak load in the summer and winter, averaging at about 1,900 kWh. In fall, peak is only slight higher, at around 2,000 kWh. Peak spring hours are from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. and again from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. Peak fall hours come just once each day, from 4:00 to 10:00 p.m.

    Energy Diversity to Meet Peak Load
    Our primary goal as your Cooperative is to make sure that you have access to safe, reliable, affordable power. If we can’t meet your demand when you hit your peak load each season, then your power can go out, leaving your family uncomfortably hot in the summer or dangerously cold during the winter.

    To make sure that doesn’t happen, we rely on a variety of energy sources in our power generation mix. We use renewables like solar and wind alongside baseload resources like coal and natural gas. We call this approach an “all-of-the-above” generation mix: we use all of the above energy sources to give you reliable electric.

    Keep learning more about how your Cooperatives generate the electricity that powers your home or business. Come back to the blog for tips on budgeting for those extra-expensive electric bills in the heat of summer and the coldest parts of winter.

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  • Helping You Budget for High Electric Bills

    Your Cooperative’s rates are the same all year long. Your electric use, on the other hand, fluctuates from one season to the next. Our experience has taught us that winter and summer are the two times of the year when our Member-Owners use the most power. That means two things: 1) more strain on the power grid and 2) your power bill goes up.

    Why Your Bill Goes Up
    Your power bill doesn’t go up because there’s more strain on the grid. Your power bill goes up because you’re using more electricity than you do during months when the temperatures are milder. It takes a lot of energy to run your air conditioner in the summer and your heater in the winter.

    We try to keep generation and transmission expenses as low as we can, but no matter how low our rates are, your bills will still go up when you use more power. Many Cooperatives offer special programs to help you budget for high electric bills. Three of the most common are budget billing programs, prepaid services, and home energy audits.

    Budget Billing
    Budget Billing gives you a consistent electric bill every month, all year long. Your payments are level based on your previous year’s usage. Each year, your Cooperative will let you know if your level payment amount changes. Budget Billing is helpful if you want to know exactly what to expect each month.

    Prepaid Services
    Prepaid services allow you to choose how much money you want to pay at a time toward your electric use. You can also choose how often you want to pay. When you prepay, you don’t have to make deposits or pay late fees. Prepaying also helps you to avoid disconnect and reconnect fees. Talk to your Cooperative to find out what prepay options are available.

    What many Member-Owners don’t realize about prepaid services is that when you prepay, your Cooperative reads your meter every single day, deducting your payment account for the amount of electricity you used the previous day. This style “billing” is great if you’re trying to understand when you’re using more electricity, and they can help you hold yourself accountable for your budgeted power use.

    Home Energy Audits
    For a relatively small (and sometimes tax deductible) fee, your Cooperative can visit your home, giving you an assessment of the actual energy you use. Energy audits help you to identify air leaks, inadequate caulking and insulation, and other places where your home is losing heat (in winter) or air (in summer).

    Each Rural Electric Cooperative decides how to help Member-Owners to manage high power bills. If you’d like to learn more, contact your Cooperative to ask about ways it can help.

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  • Energy Trails Project Lights Up Bolivia

    In August 2016, six Missouri lineworkers joined six volunteers from Oklahoma on a 16-day electrification project in Amazonian Bolivia. The project, called Energy Trails, brought power to 361 rural Bolivian families, making their villages safer and improving their quality of life.

    Free Land But No Electricity
    The villages of El Torito and Dos de Junio sit on the outskirts of the city of Riberalta. Villagers moved to their rural communities when the Bolivian government offered them free plots of land with the promise of electricity to come: Riberalta had electricity before the Energy Trails project, but the villages did not.

    Photo Credit: Jim McCarthy and Rural Missouri

    Homes in El Torito and Dos de Junio are small and basic. Cooperative volunteers described them as being just one or two rooms with dirt floors, no running water, and, of course, no electric power. Brandon Steffan of West Central Electric Cooperative in Higginsville talked with Electric Co-op Today about how hard it is to imagine life without electricity:

    “It’s 2016. You never think there are people that don’t have power. You just assume everybody has it. And the people here have gone so long without it. I don’t think they know exactly how much it’s probably going to change their life.”

    Lilian Maguayo, the president of the El Torito community, might not have known exactly how much her life would change with electrification, but she had some idea. She knew that electricity would offer her community access to better healthcare and education, and she believed that electric power could give the villagers of El Torito something even more powerful:

    “You’re coming here to give us hope” (source).

    Read More: On the Ground in Bolivia (from Rural Electric Magazine)

    Safer Streets and Rewarding Work

    Before Energy Trails, the streets of El Torito and Dos de Junio were dark at night. Motorbike taxi drivers from the city were often unwilling to drive villagers after dark because it was too difficult to see bumps and holes in the dirt road. Criminals wielding machetes sometimes hid in the dark along the road, too, making foot travel frightening and unsafe.

    Without a way to get safely to hospitals in Riberalta after dark, villagers couldn’t always get adequate, timely medical care. Energy Trails volunteers like Jared Kelley of SEMO Electric Cooperative in Sikeston appreciated the opportunity to help change that. Kelley told Electric Co-op Today that while he’s always found his Cooperative work rewarding, the rewards he got from volunteering in Bolivia were “unreal.”

    Those rewards were hard-earned. Energy Trails project volunteers laid 250 new poles over ten miles, bringing power to 361 families in less than two weeks.

    “We use bucket trucks at home,” Kelley said. “We still climb some, but here it was all done with hooks, all manpower, and a lot of good guys to get it done (source).”

    Kelley was one of six Missouri linesmen selected to participate in Energy Trails. Volunteers were chosen from among 18 total volunteers at 12 of your Missouri Electric Cooperatives.

    Read More: The Energy Trails Blog 
    by the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives

    Photo Credit: Jim McCarthy and Rural Missouri

    Your Missouri Electric Cooperatives’ Energy Trails Volunteers
    Missouri Energy Trails volunteers included Steven Smith of Northeast Missouri Electric Power Cooperative in Palmyra, Robert Hawkins of Boone Electric Cooperative in Columbia, Tom Golder of Osage Valley Electric Cooperative in Butler, John Winther of Laclede Electric Cooperative in Lebanon, Brandon Steffan of West Central Electric Cooperative in Higginsville, and Jared Kelley of SEMO Electric Cooperative in Sikeston.

    About Energy Trails
    The Energy Trails project was made possible through a partnership between the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives (AMEC) and the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives (OAEC) through the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s International Program. The project was completed with the help of local Bolivian Cooperative, Cooperativa Electrica Riberalta.

    About NRECA International
    For 50 years, NRECA International has provided women, men and children in developing countries with access to safe, reliable and affordable electricity. As a global leader in the design and implementation of successful and sustainable rural electrification programs, NRECA International works to bring electricity to the world, thereby improving health, education and economic opportunities and helping to create parity of opportunity for millions in the developing world.

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  • How Your Missouri Electric Cooperatives Use Base Load and Other Resources to Power Your Home

    Have you ever wondered how your Missouri Electric Cooperative figures out how much power your family, your business — and the whole Cooperative — needs each day, month, or year, to live and work comfortably? And even more importantly, have you ever wondered how your Cooperative actually supplies that power to you when your needs aren’t exactly the same from one day to the next?

    Base Load Power
    The minimum amount of power you and your community need in any given 24-hour cycle is called your base load, or your base load requirement.

    Your base load requirement is met largely using the energy that’s generated at coal-burning power plants. These plants are large, reliable, and inexpensive to operate, which means that your Cooperative can provide you with the minimum power you need on a day-to-day basis reliably and affordably.

    Base load power plants don’t fluctuate their production in response to your usage, though, so if the weather gets exceptionally hot or cold (and you use more power), they might not be able to meet your needs. Base load plants aren’t designed to be adaptable — they’re designed to be large and reliable; the backbone of Missouri’s rural power supply.

    Adaptable, Intermediate Power Plants
    So what happens when your needs exceed the power generated by base load plants? Maybe the temperatures are higher, and you’re running your air conditioner more often. Or maybe you use more power before school each morning than you do at other times of day. What does your Cooperative do then?

    Your Missouri Electric Cooperative still relies on base load plants for some of your power generation, but when you need more than those base load plants can provide, your Cooperative also pulls from an additional type of power plant: the natural gas-powered intermediate plant.

    Intermediate plants are smaller than base load plants are, and they’re better able to respond to your usage fluctuation, too. They can be turned on and off to meet your needs, making them an important part of your Cooperative’s power mix. The downside of intermediate plants, though, is that they’re more expensive to operate than base load plants are.

    What Happens When Peak Load Spikes? 
    When your peak load spikes exceptionally high, like it does on the very hottest summer days and the very coldest winter ones, Missouri’s Electric Cooperatives use a third kind of power plant to generate electricity: Simple-cycle gas plants.

    Simple-cycle plants are incredibly agile, and they can be started up (or turned back off) very quickly to help meet your peak needs. They’re also the most expensive of the three primary kinds of power plants we use in rural Missouri.

    Your Cooperative uses a mix of base load resources, intermediate natural gas plants, and simple-cycle plants to provide you with reliable power during base and peak usage, both: Base requirements are met inexpensively using base load plants, while peak load can be met at higher rates using adaptable intermediate and simple-cycle plants.

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  • Thank You Member-Owners from Missouri’s Electric Cooperatives

    Missouri’s Electric Cooperatives want to thank you, our Member-Owners, for your continued involvement and personal investment in your rural Electric Cooperatives. For each day we work to bring reliable, safe, and affordable power to rural Missouri, you’re there voting and participating in your local Cooperative. We couldn’t do it without you, our Member-Owners.

    Your Voice is More Important Than You Realize
    Missouri’s Cooperative system is one of the best three-tiered systems in the United States. We offer some of the most reliable service in the country, and we have you to thank for that legacy. We hope that you’re proud of your Missouri Electric Cooperative, and that you’re proud of the ownership that you have in it.

    Your Cooperative can offer the best service when we understand what you want and need from us. Mike Torres of Platte Clay Electric Cooperative says it well when he says that:

    “We’re there to provide the service and the reliability to Members that they want in the way that they want it. We’re constantly asking them questions and looking for their answers. Your voice and your participation in the Cooperative is so much more important than you realize (source).”

    Be an Active #MemberOwner
    You can tell your Cooperative what you want and need by participating at your annual meeting, responding to surveys your Cooperative sends out, and sharing new ideas with your Cooperative when you have them.

    At your annual membership meeting, you get to vote on bylaws, board member selections, and other voting matters of the Cooperative. You have a direct say in your Cooperative’s operations and policies when you attend — and vote — at your annual meeting.

    Surveys are used by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), by the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives (AMEC), and by your local Cooperative to gather important feedback about Member-Owner priorities, including cost of electricity and the importance of renewable energy sources.

    Finally, your Cooperative counts on your ideas to continually improve on our engagement with our community. Whether your ideas regard civic programs, legislative advocacy, educational services, or some other aspect of Cooperative operations, we welcome your input.

    As Emery (Buster) Geisendorfer, Jr., of Lewis County Rural Electric Cooperative says, “New ideas are wonderful. We need new ideas.”

    If you’d like to be a more active #MemberOwner, reach out to your Missouri Electric Cooperative today. We’re always glad to answer your questions, share tips for energy efficiency, and help you find ways to get more involved. Remember, we couldn’t do what we do without your help.

    Thank you for your interest and involvement in your Missouri Electric Cooperatives!

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    Learn more about Missouri’s Electric Cooperatives, and how we work to provide safe, efficient energy to rural Missouri by following us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.

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