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Electricity conservation plea leads to discussion about our electric future

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Last week the residents of Webster County were abuzz after a post was made from Webster Electric Cooperative’s Facebook page. “Due to unseasonably high temperatures, members of Webster Electric Cooperative have been asked to safely conserve electricity as the three-tiered system of electric cooperatives continues to do everything possible to meet members’ energy needs…” was the opener of the Facebook post. It went on to ask co-op members to begin conserving energy for two days from 2:00 pm. - 8:00 p.m. starting on Thursday June 16 through Friday June 17. 

The post was shared over 200 times and upon last check, had over one hundred comments from local residents and co-op members asking questions like; “If they can’t keep up with hot weather, how do they think they can charge 100,000 electric cars on top of hot weather” and “Hot weather in this area, this time of year is nothing new. In fact we actually had maybe an extra month of cooler temperatures than normal. Why is this now becoming an issue?” It was clear from reading the comments that the residents of Webster County were frustrated at the idea of potential blackouts and many took the opportunity to voice their complaints.

Wanting to get to the bottom of what triggered the Facebook post, The Mail reached out to Webster Electric. 

The posts were created by our Power Generator, Associated Electric Cooperative that is headquartered in Springfield, MO.” expressed Tom Huston, General Manager of Webster Electric. 

“Their power plants are located across the state; our three largest generators are located outside of Moberly and New Madrid in Missouri and Chouteau, OK. AECI supplies power to 40 Distribution cooperatives in Missouri with a couple handful of others in Western Oklahoma and a few in Southern Iowa. AECI is primarily fossil fuel based (75%) with some additional renewable resources consisting of wind and hydropower derived from dams located in Missouri, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.”

Understanding where the generators that power Webster Electric comes from is the first step in understanding the ‘call-to-action’ posted to their Facebook Page.

“Unfortunately, three of AECI’s generators were down due to maintenance issues,” explained Huston. “And due to unseasonably warm weather they were concerned about their ability to serve large loads in the evening hours between 2-8 p.m. By asking the members to reduce their usages during these peak periods took strain off the system. Also, it is very uncommon to have these extreme periods of heat during June.”

Local meteorologists warn the public to expect “warmer than average” temperatures for the rest of summer. In fact, most of the Ozarks were in a heat advisory last week and the heat index is expected to reach the upper 90s and 100s in the coming days according to the National Weather Service’s website.  

But what about the electric cars using all the juice? “I am only aware of a few handfuls of electric cars charging on our system…” shared Huston. However, as the Federal Government continues to push for electric cars, Webster Electric (as well as other electric companies around the United States) have plans in place. 

“It is hard to say how soon or if there will ever be a large contingent of electric vehicles especially in rural areas where mileage ranges limit their effectiveness, but regardless the electric industry is doing its best to prepare for this by ensuring that car charging is not detrimental to the system,” Huston reflected.  “…many utility (companies) are already changing their rates so that there is an incentive for people to program their cars to charge overnight between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. when power plants and the grid are being underutilized.”

“Webster and Sho-Me take great pride in the reliability we provide to our members as do the fine people who work at AECI and their associated plants. The last thing we want to do is be an inconvenience to our member-owners,” expressed Huston. “The biggest issue we are fighting is that with our current Federal Administration it is very difficult to do business the way we would like to.  In fact, it is almost impossible to get new fossil fuel generation permitted or financed.  Our members could truly help by joining alongside us in a grassroots campaign to continue to let our Federal agencies know our reliability is not for sale and fossil fuels or nuclear are the only way to ensure we have a secure and reliable energy future.  Renewables are a great idea, but as most people already realize if the sun does not shine and the wind does not blow they are not very reliable and should only be considered supplemental.”

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