Families and businesses across our region may be impacted by an energy shortfall this summer. We want you to understand the situation and how it could affect your electric service.
Cedar Falls Utilities and many utilities in the Midwest are members of the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO). MISO operates the regional electric system serving Iowa and surrounding states. MISO monitors the electric grid and directs the operation of electric generating plants and the transmission of electricity to utilities.
MISO recently issued an alert that our region may not be able to generate enough electricity during peak demand times this summer. Peak electric demand usually occurs when temperatures are high and lots of electricity is used to cool buildings. If an energy shortfall occurs in the MISO region, our community could be called on to run our local electric generating plants and cut our energy demand.
In extreme cases, limited, controlled power outages (rolling blackouts) may be required and could affect Cedar Falls. Controlled power outages are necessary in an emergency to prevent long-term damage to the electric grid. While regional power outages are unlikely, we want you to be prepared.
Learn what steps you can take to be prepared here.
Potential Energy Shortfall
For many years our region had the capacity to produce more electricity than we needed. The excess energy capacity has been shrinking. This is largely due to retirements of fuel-dependent plants fired by coal, natural gas or nuclear fuel. For example, the Duane Arnold Energy Center nuclear plant in Iowa was retired in 2020. There have been many other retirements of nuclear and coal-fired plants throughout the upper Midwest due to economic, regulatory and environmental pressures. These plants provided reliable power 24/7. Our region will have 2.3% less generation capacity this year than in the summer of 2021.
There have been large additions of wind generation to the electric grid, and soon we expect significant additions of solar arrays. However, wind and solar are intermittent and unpredictable resources that do not provide certainty when planning for days with high electric demand.
The combination of power plant retirements, more reliance on intermittent renewable resources and growing electric demand has created an elevated risk for an energy shortfall.
Impact in Cedar Falls
Power outages are rare in Cedar Falls. Our local distribution system is well-built and maintained, as are our local generating resources including the Streeter Station power plant, natural gas turbines and solar array. Thanks to conservation efforts by many of you, our community’s peak electric demand has not increased since 2013.
Maintaining our local generating units and holding our electric demand steady has benefited our community. However, keeping the interconnected regional power grid functioning is a group effort. All utilities in our region could be required by MISO to do our part to cut electric demand in an emergency. If that occurs, CFU will work with our largest business customers to temporarily reduce energy usage and may call on residential customers to conserve energy.
Even with efforts to cut energy use and run our local generating units, we could still be subject to regional controlled power outages. We are not able to isolate our community from the electric grid during an emergency event.