Balance on the power grid rests on the ability of utilities to provide electricity exactly when we need it. What happens if that balance is shifted?
The magic of the electric power grid is the precise balance it must maintain to provide the exact amount of electricity (generation) needed to meet the needs of all consumers connected to the grid (load). Our wholesale power provider, Dairyland Power Cooperative, has employees working 24/7 with the regional system operator (MISO) to ensure this balance. At MiEnergy, there are programs and resources in place to support these efforts.
MISO uses Max Gen procedures to address grid restraints. MiEnergy issues Peak Alerts when there is high demand on the grid. Learn more below.
Max Gen vs
If there is a severe imbalance between supply and demand for electricity, a Max Gen Warning is issued by MISO to Dairyland Power and MiEnergy. A warning is just that, a warning that MiEnergy may need to reduce its electric load. Devices on energy management may be activated, and it could happen with little notice. A warning may not advance to an event.
A Max Gen Event occurs when there is a shortage of generation resources and the amount of electricity on the grid is critical and may not be able to meet demand. Members should reduce all non-essential electricity use to avoid serious consequences to the grid's power supply because it could advance to rolling blackouts. Last June, MISO advanced to a Max Gen Event, and MiEnergy's members with devices on energy management programs had them activated. However, the event did not escalate to activation of energy management programs outside normal parameters or rolling blackout situations.
You may occasionally hear a message on the radio from your cooperative, see posts on its social media pages or see a local media story when a Peak Alert is issued. At those times, we encourage our members to take note of the important message and conserve electricity. Normally, there is advanced warning of an hour or two. Members with devices on the co-op's energy management programs will have them activated.
A summer (June - Aug.) Peak Alert is issued when there is high demand for electricity on the regional grid. When issued, MiEnergy asks members to conserve electricity from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Members with air conditioning, dairy water heaters, irrigation and grain drying on MiEnergy's energy management programs will have them activated.
A winter Peak Alert is issued when there is high demand for electricity on the regional grid. When issued it will be split into morning (6:55 a.m. - 10:05 a.m.) and/or evening events (5 p.m. - 8 p.m.) December through February. MiEnergy asks members to conserve electricity during these times.
- Interruptible Heat/Dual Fuel: Enrolled heating equipment will be managed in mornings instead of evenings when a Peak Alert has been issued.
- Dairy Water Heaters/Grain Dryers: Enrolled equipment will remain on the traditional winter schedule of management when a Peak Alert has been issued.
Elevated peak demand leads to higher power costs. Members can help keep electricity rates stable and affordable by shifting electricity use doing these times.
Max Gen FAQs
Max Gen Events are called by MISO (Midcontinent Independent System Operator) – the regional transmission operator – when grid reliability may be at risk. In other words, the amount of electricity available on the grid is critically low and may not be able to meet the demand for electricity. This could occur for multiple reasons:
- Extreme temperatures
- Severe weather conditions
- Generation resources (power plants, solar/wind facilities, etc.) are unexpectedly offline or unavailable
- Higher-than-projected need for electricity
- Transmission line congestion
Full Load Control Events are called by Dairyland Power Cooperative – our wholesale power provider – to help reduce electricity demand and help save money on future wholesale power bills
- Full Load Control events are called only during the summer and winter seasons at pre-determined scheduled start times (2 p.m. summer; 5 p.m. winter).
- Members with devices enrolled in our energy management programs will have their devices automatically controlled during Full Load Control events.
Maximum Generation Events are called by MISO for grid reliability reasons
- Max Gen Events can be called at any time for any duration of time with minimal advance notice.
- Members with devices enrolled in our energy management programs may have their devices automatically controlled during Max Gen Events. Members will be notified if devices need to be controlled.
- Ultimately, all members could be affected by a controlled outage if the grid is at risk of collapsing. This would be the very last action called for.
If MISO declares a Max Gen Event, there is a chance members will not be affected other than being asked to help reduce non-essential electricity use. If our energy management program is activated, it would begin with control of electric water heaters and air conditioners or interruptible heat, followed by control of C&I generators, irrigation, grain dryers and A-2 accounts if additional load reduction is needed. This activation can occur at any time and could be called for by MISO with minimal advance notice.
Dairyland is pursuing solutions to reduce the carbon footprint of the electricity we use, while also maintaining safety and reliability in the process. It is critical to have generation resources that can meet members’ electricity needs when the wind doesn’t blow and sun doesn’t shine. Current Dairyland projects that will increase and support the addition of more renewables include:
- Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line
- Nemadji Trail Energy Center
- Recent purchase of the RockGen Energy Center
- Badger State Solar
Dairyland and its members also work with large loads within our regional footprint to ensure they have adequate back-up resources and/or the ability to reduced demand when needed.
There is no simple answer. Duration depends on multiple factors that cannot be predicted until the situation arises. It could be two hours to as long as needed to bring the regional grid into balance between load/demand and available generation.
In many cases, controlled outages would rotate around the service territory in a pattern where power may be off for a couple of hours, back on for a while and then off again.
If notified of a Max Gen Event, our energy management program may be activated outside of normal program hours. This could happen with minimal advance notice. Consumer members who do not participate in a energy management program can still help:
- Turn off or unplug all non-essential lights, televisions, electronics and other appliances.
- Cook food in a microwave instead of using a stovetop or oven.
- Adjust the thermostat up or down, depending on the season.
- Shift high electricity use activities, such as laundry, vacuuming and running the dishwasher until after the Max Gen Event has ended.
- Delay electric vehicle charging until after the Max Gen Event.
The Genoa Station #3 (G-3) was a 345 MW supercritical coal-fired facility located in Genoa, Wis., from 1969-2021. A decision was made in early 2020 to retire the unit.
Many factors were considered including the age of the facility, system capacity requirements, carbon reduction goals, regulatory requirements, projected maintenance needs and costs, fuel supply, overall cost of power production and regional market prices for energy.
G-3’s retirement aligned with Dairyland’s Sustainable Generation Plan to diversify its energy resource mix. This included the addition of renewable resources to Dairyland’s generation mix and the purchase of the 503-MW RockGen Energy Center in 2021.
MISO (Midcontinent Independent System Operator) is a not-for-profit regional transmission organization (air traffic controller for electricity) that ensures reliable, cost-effective delivery of electricity across all or parts of 15 U.S. states and Manitoba, Canada.
The interconnection of generation resources in this footprint allows Dairyland to secure power purchase agreements throughout the region, such as wind farms west of our service territory or a solar array to the east.
Through MISO, Dairyland sells all the power it generates and purchases the power it needs for its members. This serves Dairyland and its member cooperatives, including MiEnergy, well when their generation resources sell excess power onto the grid. Conversely, if one of Dairyland’s generating units is offline, Dairyland purchases power from the MISO market to ensure consumer members have the electricity they need at the flip of a switch.
Dairyland has more than enough capacity to meet the needs of its 24 member cooperatives (including MiEnergy). While being part of MISO has overall benefitted Dairyland, there are times when Dairyland must work with other utilities in MISO to ensure grid reliability. Dairyland’s Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer Ben Porath addressed this during Dairyland’s 2022 Annual Meeting of Members:
“The day the grid becomes unstable because there is more use than there is generation supplied into the grid, all utilities will have to be involved. That’s where the rolling blackouts come in. We will all take a little share of the pain to make sure the grid doesn’t collapse,” he said. “It’s a low probability event, but it could happen.”