Southwestern Electric Addresses Electricity Supply and Demand at 84th Annual Members Meeting

Greenville, IL-(Radio Effingham)- Electricity supply and demand was the main topic of the 84th edition of the Southwestern Electric Cooperativee Annual Membership Meeting, held Saturday, September 10 at Highland Middle School in Highland, Illinois. The meeting included live electrical safety demonstrations, an electric vehicle and plug-in hybrid car show, a solar power and geothermal technology show, and the co-op’s business meeting and election of directors.

“If you’ve watched the news, you’ve seen reports of power issues in California,” Southwestern CEO Bobby Williams said. “You may have heard of the possibility of preemptive or prescribed blackouts – they are generally called blackouts – in the Midwest. Here is the summary of the situation as I see it: Our industry is changing. Green energy coal power plants Old coal plants are closing and energy companies are not investing in new plants to replace them.

Historically, coal has provided Illinois with base load or “always on” energy, Williams said. “As a result, the availability of ever-available energy in our region is decreasing. Green power is growing in the Midwest, but it takes a lot of wind and solar power to fill the void left by baseload power losses, and wind and solar generation doesn’t always work.

“It is possible that the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), which manages the supply and demand of electricity on the grid in our region of the Midwest, could require the utilities – ours included – to interrupt the service for a defined period in specific areas, if, on a particularly hot afternoon or an extremely cold day, demand for electricity promises to exceed supply,” Williams said. “By instructing utilities to shut off power to defined areas for short periods of time, MISO can reduce demand on the network and prevent larger outages. The prescribed outage would likely be brief – a few hours – but it would occur probably when power demand is highest – late afternoon or early evening.

Williams recommended members treat the potential for a preemptive power outage as they would any other outage. “Have a backup power plan in place,” he said. “It can be as simple as arranging to stay with a friend or family member served by another circuit in a different area. Or if you prefer the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’ll have power regardless, you can choose to invest in a backup generator. Think of your backup power plan as insurance: it gives you peace of mind. »

Williams said he felt the phrase “continuous outage” was misleading. “It makes a prescribed blackout look like a tidal wave. This is not the case. This is a controlled operation where the transmission line operations and engineering personnel open the circuits and create a defined outage, to reduce the demand for electricity for a period of time. Then they close the circuits to restore power. Unfortunately, Williams said, distribution co-ops often get little or no notice of these disruptions, making it difficult to let you know.

He told members that if MISO announced a prescribed outage, the co-op would notify members through its social media and robocalls.

“Some of you have asked what you can do to help prevent a power outage. There are two things you can do,” Williams said. “If MISO issues a power conservation alert for our area, we’ll pass it on to you.Using appliances like washers, dryers, dishwashers, and pool pumps during off-peak hours—at night or early in the morning—can help our area avoid a preemptive power outage. .

“You can also contact your state and local legislators. Express your concerns. Let your representatives know that this issue requires your attention. It’s the best way I know to make sure your voice is heard in Springfield — and in Chicago,” he said. “My purpose in mentioning the potential for these prescribed or preventative shutdowns is not to alarm, but rather to inform. As your responsible energy partner, we are monitoring this issue and all others that may impact our service to you, our member-owners.

“Green power has a place in our future, but we must not sacrifice reliability and our way of life by relying exclusively on technology that is not ready to replace base generation. We will continue to do our part to stay ahead of these issues, and you can help by reaching out to your state and local lawmakers,” Williams said. “Together, we will ensure that your cooperative, our cooperative, will be here for another 84 years.”

Co-op President Ann Schwarm told members that the COVID pandemic has served as a catalyst for change within the organization, encouraging the co-op to embrace new technologies and service approaches. “This annual meeting is a bridge between an era of tradition and an era of innovation,” she said. “Every day, as we tackle the problems and responsibilities of electricity cooperatives – energy, infrastructure, personnel, improving our aging distribution system, securing the resources we need to deliver exceptional service and reliability – we also look to the future.”

Schwarm said that as part of its strategic plan, Southwestern continues to monitor, analyze and forecast system growth. “As I have pointed out in the past, while our membership continues to grow, our electricity sales are stagnating. As we cross the bridge into the future, we cannot always do what we have always done. Schwarm said the co-op is placing a renewed emphasis on economic development to attract commercial and industrial accounts to the co-op’s service area. “Upgrades and additions to this 84-year-old electrical system will be needed now and in the years to come. Setting priorities is essential. Only well-thought-out, timely and economically responsible projects will get the green light.

“The Southwestern Electric Cooperative – my co-op, your co-op – has the leadership and talent to meet whatever challenges the future may bring,” Schwarm said. “We will continue to use the latest tools and technologies, and embrace new and innovative ideas. We will do this in a way that will serve you well today, tomorrow and in the years to come. It is a tradition of which we can be proud.

After the President’s speech, the members received the results of the elections. A total of 2,087 Southwestern Electric members voted in the election, including 1,953 members using the early voting option offered by the co-op since 2020 and 134 members voting on the morning of the meeting. Southwest members elected one member from each of the co-op’s three electoral districts to sit on the co-op’s board of directors.

From District I, incumbent Sandy Grapperhaus of Collinsville ran unopposed and was elected by acclamation.

From District II, incumbent Ted Willman of Greenville defeated challengers Bruce Unterbrink of Greenville and Stacey Sidwell of Sorento. Willman received 918 votes, Unterbrink received 604 votes, and 456 votes were cast for Sidwell.

From District III, incumbent Ann Schwarm of Loogootee defeated challenger Stacy Alwardt of Edgewood. Schwarm received 1,363 votes while 586 members voted for Alwardt.

Each director will serve a three-year term on the board.

Based in Greenville, Illinois, the Southwestern Electric Cooperative is a member-owned, not-for-profit utility that serves 24,000 residential, commercial, agricultural, and industrial members in 11 counties along the I-70 corridor between St. Louis, Mo., and Effingham, Illinois.

Alan A. Seibert