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As energy use and energy prices continue to rise, our voluntary Energy Hero Peak Alert program has become more important than ever to temper energy use on high-demand days. These alerts are only issued when absolutely necessary (typically around five times per year), but the number of alerts can vary as much as Minnesota weather. Extreme weather often triggers an alert, and the majority of the time extreme heat, rather than cold, is the culprit.
By issuing an Energy Hero Peak Alert, Owatonna Public Utilities asks its customers to conserve energy during the time of day when use is at its highest, typically late-morning through dusk on hot days. During a cold-weather Peak Alert, conservation is necessary first thing in the morning and again in the evening when the need for heat is at its peak.
To date, energy shortages and blackouts or brownouts have not been a great concern in our region of the United States . However, if we have an extended period of peak use, it’s possible we could face such a situation without conservation efforts. Other parts of the U.S. have faced shortages in the past.
Energy Hero Peak Alerts benefit the entire community
As a non-profit and community-owned utility, the rates we charge residents and businesses are based entirely on our cost of doing business. As a result, when our costs for energy go up, so must our customers’. We buy energy from a wholesale supplier at a specified rate. However, since electricity can’t be stored, it must be produced on demand. During peak demand periods additional generators are required, which are more costly to operate, driving up energy costs.
- By saving a single megawatt of power during a peak period, we reduce our costs by $85,000, which means we could potentially save hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, and keep our rates in line.
- 11 percent of our total purchased power cost is related to the peak we set each year. We can keep these costs lower by controlling the peak and thereby save $$$$.
- In the past, we have worked primarily with businesses and other large-volume energy users, and we’ve had great support, helping us keep our peak down during the day. Now, however, our peak use is shifting to later in the evening as people get home from work, demonstrating how this program needs to be a community-wide effort, not just focused on one segment of the community.
Conserving to protect the environment
Reducing energy use through Energy Hero Peak Alert periods conserves energy, and every kilowatt hour conserved is one that does not have to be produced from a fossil fuel plant. This is good for the environment since it reduces the amount of fuel that needs to be used to make electricity, and it lowers carbon emissions produced by coal-fired power plants. In addition, increased demand is pressuring power suppliers to add infrastructure to satisfy demand. Keeping our peak use periods as low as possible will help defer construction of new plants.
Be a small part of something big
Energy Hero Peak Alerts are not often called, but when they are we ask that every resident and business take them seriously and do their part. Every small action counts, and the cumulative effect becomes substantial. Though it’s a voluntary program, Energy Hero Peak Alert periods are necessary to keep our energy costs in line.
When an Energy Hero Peak Alert is issued, we announce it that morning on local radio stations. In addition, we’ve started a program to email information to residents and businesses.
For Frequently Asked Questions, click here.