Environmentally beneficial electrification means that electrical appliances and devices like water heaters, ovens, clothes dryers and vehicles have the potential to become greener over time without any additional action from the consumer. According to Iowa Association of Electric Cooperative executive director Chuck Soderberg, “As electric generation becomes more renewable and environmentally responsible, the devices that use electricity automatically become greener compared to those that use fossil fuels like gasoline, propane and natural gas.” According to the Beneficial Electrification League, Beneficial Electrification programs are a valuable opportunity to engage both electric utilities and environmental groups in the effort to identify solutions that work well for the end-use consumer, local communities and the environment.
This concept is what brought together nearly 100 registered attendees to the Electrify Iowa! Summit in West Des Moines on September 5 hosted by the Iowa Rural Power Education Foundation and the Iowa Environmental Council. Special thanks to the Beneficial Electrification League, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Iowa Association for Energy Efficiency, the Iowa Geothermal Association and others for their involvement and support of the summit.
Chris Larson, NIPCO Engineer II, served as one of several panelists and speakers who addressed conference attendees about the most common reasons for considering an energy storage program: peak shaving, system reliability, and effectively marketing (or, selling) surplus power back to the transmission grid if excess energy is available.
NIPCO is in early stages of conversations with large scale battery vendors for energy storage and shared some of the challenges encountered and unexpected considerations. If sized correctly, such a battery could enhance NIPCO’s Switch Makes Cents program to further bring value to the NIPCO membership.
Switch Makes Cents was the first load management program of its kind in Iowa and remains one of the most sophisticated thanks to a newly upgraded system offering real-time, two-way telemetry that works with member distribution cooperatives' already established automated metering infrastructure (AMI). AMI is used by NIPCO member cooperatives to receive real-time data about power consumption. Members have the ability to review this data in order to make informed choices about energy usage based on the price at the time of use.
To date, nearly 18,000 demand-side load management switches have been installed in member homes, farms, and businesses within NIPCO's service territory. The Switch Makes Cents program has resulted in member savings of more than $47 million since the program's launch and a total demand-side savings to member-consumers of $3.6 million in 2018.
Special thanks to Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives Director of Communications Erin Campbell for her contributions to this story.