HAWARDEN—The city of Hawarden was warned about the potential for energy shortages this summer at the June 8 Hawarden City Council meeting.
Hawarden and Ireton get their electrical energy from Southwest Power Pool, a regional organization that manages the grid and transmission for all or part of 14 states.
At issue is federal policy switching power generation away from traditional sources such as coal to renewable energy such as wind and solar.
Fueling the problem is the increased speed coal plants are being decommissioned, said Hawarden Public Works director Travis Waterman.
Taken together, it means that summer electrical needs might not be able to be met across the whole grid if weather conditions don’t cooperate.
“They’re afraid if we have a really super hot, non-windy day, that the generation will not be able to keep up with the demand,” Waterman said, adding that this is an issue all communities a part of this grid will face this summer, not just Hawarden, as it’s not an issue with local utilities or infrastructure. “You’ve seen that with California through their drought. They’re not able to get as much electricity. They’re super green, but when the wind’s not blowing or the sun’s not out, they’re in trouble, too. You’re going to see this nationwide.”
Hawarden has continued to upgrade its electrical infrastructure through the years, including converting its overhead power lines to underground, increasing its reliability.
Waterman took part in a webinar June 3 with SPP. During that webinar, participants were told that communities would be warned ahead of time of potential issues in a three-tier notification system.
A level one alert would be put out to cities when conditions are right for high electric loads and poor generation rates.
The potential for electrical issues will be weather-driven, Waterman said.
“A superhot day when the wind’s not blowing is kind of the recipe for trouble,” he said.
At level two, SPP will request utilities and municipalities to begin conserving electricity.
Once this happens, the city will alert residents, as a notification system is being developed.
When in an electrical conservation mode, cities might be request that residents to hold off on some activities such as doing laundry or running electric stoves, as water heaters and stoves are considered high-load appliances.
He said the peak times for electric loads are generally 5-6 p.m. when most people are returning home from work.
A level three alert indicates that power outages are imminent.
“If it gets to that level two, hopefully we can conserve enough that it doesn’t get to that level three and they have outages,” Waterman said.
Other challenges to electricity production include the rising cost of natural gas prices and droughts in the Midwest limiting hydroelectric production.
Still, there is no telling how much of an issue, if any, this will be.
It could be that no restrictions are needed by Hawarden or Ireton residents at all throughout the summer, or it could be that periodically throughout the summer, electrical conservation is requested and outages come. The notification system will at least give the city and its residents a bit of warning ahead of time.