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Rural Missouri Magazine

Power Shortage? Maybe

by Frank Stork

Because of electric energy shortages creeping across our nation, electric cooperatives have come up with a series of plans to avoid paying outrageous prices for marketpriced power. My family and yours are included in one of those plans.

If a situation should arise where we need to import electric power from out of state, electric cooperative members will be notified through radio and television messages.

We will be asked to alter our daily habits by limiting the use of major electrical appliances for a brief period. We can easily comply by using only one major electric appliance at a time.

For example, if we are using the electric oven to prepare dinner, we can avoid running the washing machine until later. Also, we will want to defer using large amounts of hot water during the time another major appliance is in use.

If we do our part, we can shave up to 5 percent off "peak" which normally occurs between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. The overall savings for REC members would be measured in millions of dollars.

When it comes to electricity use, REC members have shown we are eager to conserve. To ensure the success of this conservation plan, we should begin talking about its importance before the hot weather arrives.

We have heard plenty about the power blackouts in California. As they adopt desperate measures to rectify their energy shortages, some of the pain will be felt outside the Golden State. While we have enough generation capacity to meet our needs, emergencies can and do occur.

A "power emergency" can be described as an unscheduled shut down of a generating plant. That usually happens when the output of the plant is needed the most.

In the past, when emergencies occurred, we could readily import power from other states. We had that capability because we built and controlled a reliable high voltage transmission system.

Currently, because of a change in federal law, others can buy capacity on the regional transmission system. If we need to bring in power, we may find that someone bought the rights to the transmission capacity we would need to make such a transaction. It may not be available because someone is passing energy through our Missouri system to a market where they will make more money.

We in Missouri are now exposed to those uncertain and potentially costly market conditions.

We want to reassure you the operators of REC-owned generation and transmission systems are doing everything to maintain system reliability. And, it should give us comfort to know they are planning for every contingency.

My family is glad to know they will be asked to help if a power shortage is eminent. Are we looking at a power shortage in Missouri? Not likely. But we need to do everything we can to be ready for "maybe."

Stork was executive vice president of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives and a member of Three Rivers Electric Co-op.

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Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives

Rural Missouri
2722 E. McCarty Street
P.O. Box 1645 • Jefferson City, Mo. 65102
573-659-3423

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