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Load Management FAQ

Some common questions regarding the load management program

What is load management?

Why do I need a backup heating system?

How long can my equipment be controlled?

What factors affect the amount of load management?

With the amount of control, is the load management program still a value?

Are we running out of power?

Is Minnkota controlling loads to sell power into the energy market?

Why don’t we build new generation to serve off-peak loads to reduce the amount of control hours?

What can I do if my backup system is inadequate or isn't working?

 

 What is load management?

Load management, commonly referred to as ripple or off-peak, is a program developed by Minnkota Power Cooperative, Beltrami Electric's wholesale power supplier, which allows specific loads to be turned off during peak electrical demand. This allows members to reduce the cost of their electric heating by reducing electrical demand expense. Other equipment such as water heaters and dryers can also be connected to the off-peak service and receive the reduced rate, which is approximately 40% lower than the regular rate.

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Why do I need a backup system?

To qualify for the load management program, participants must have an adequate backup heating system to use when their electric heating system is controlled. The backup system must be able to meet your heating needs during these control periods. Automatic backup heating systems or storage systems are recommended.

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How long can my equipment be controlled?

This varies depending on the equipment you have connected to the off-peak service. 

Short-term interruptible loads, such as water heaters and dryers, can be controlled for four hours at a time and up to eight hours per day.
  
Medium-term interruptible loads, such as slab heat and thermal storage heat, can be controlled up to 16 continuous hours per day.

Long-term interruptible loads, such as dual fuel heating systems, can be controlled for extended periods. It is very important that your backup heating system is able to meet your heating needs during these times.

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What factors affect the amount of control?

A number of factors affect the amount of load management, including but not limited to: market conditions, weather, generation capacity and transmission constraints. The most significant factor influencing load control is the wholesale energy marketplace. Overall growth in electric use has consumed some of the surplus power available in the regional power pool. No new low-cost, base-load plants have been constructed in our region since the mid-1980s. Much of the “peaking” generation is natural gas-fired, which is more costly to operate than lignite-fired generation. Another factor affecting control is the weather. Low temperatures in the region increase the demand for electricity. When the demand exceeds the available capacity, Minnkota purchases available power when it’s below a pre-determined price cap. This practice avoids additional hours of control. In recent years when the wind generation is producing there has been less control and when the wind is not available there are more hours of load management.

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With the amount of control, is the load management program still a value?

A blend of off-peak electric heat and a fossil fuel backup is still significantly less expensive than heating with straight propane or fuel oil. However, it is very important to have an adequate backup heating system that fits your needs and lifestyle. It is projected the amount of control for dual fuel heating systems will be 200-300 hours this heating season. If dual fuel systems were controlled for 400 hours, you would still be able to use the electric portion of your dual fuel system approximately 80 percent of the heating season. By having other appliances on the load management program, such as a water heater, you can take advantage of the reduced rate all year long, not just during the heating season.

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Are we running out of power?

No. Minnkota has enough generating capacity to serve its firm load. There are times when Minnkota’s firm load (lights, outlets, electric ranges, refrigerators, non-controlled heat, etc.) and non-firm (controllable loads such as equipment on the off-peak program) load combined are greater than the available generating capacity. At those times, Minnkota will either purchase power on the market when it’s available at an affordable price or control its non-firm load.

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Is Minnkota controlling loads to sell power into the high-priced energy marketplace?

No. Minnkota actually purchases power to cover its off-peak loads when demand exceeds capacity and when it’s economically feasible.

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Why don’t we build new generation to serve off-peak loads to reduce the amount of control hours?

Currently, Minnkota Power has enough generation capacity to serve its firm loads. The load management program was developed to utilize generating capacity that was available but not being used during off-peak times. Members voluntarily participate in this program and pay less per kilowatt-hour for all equipment connected to the off-peak service. In exchange, the off-peak equipment is controlled during periods of peak demand. The average price to build new generation capacity is $1.5 million per megawatt (mw). It would be very costly and fiscally irresponsible for Minnkota to build new generation that would only be used a few hundred hours per year (to cover the control periods) and would undoubtedly result in a rate increase for all members.

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What can I do if my backup system is inadequate or isn’t working?

It is very important to have an adequate backup system that is functioning properly.

If your backup system is not functioning, contact a heating contractor immediately to have the problem fixed. If you feel your backup system is no longer meeting your needs, contact the cooperative or an electrical or heating contractor for suggestions on how you can improve your system.

An adequate backup system is necessary

Load management is not about shutting off your home’s heating system. It is about switching to your backup system. Addressing your home’s heating during the periods when the off-peak electric heat is not available is why you must have a backup heating system. It is important you have heat during these times.

Making your off-peak electric heating system work for you

Here are a few things to keep in mind when evaluating your backup heating system.

  • Automated backup heating systems provide greater convenience than manually operated systems.

  • The backup heating system must have adequate capacity to heat the home for extended periods.

  • You must have adequate fuel for the backup system.

  • The ability to shut off the off-peak electric heating system when the wholesale energy market becomes very expensive enables you to receive the lower cost off-peak rate.

  • Protect your off-peak rate by using your backup system during these periods. Those who tamper with the load management system or use on-peak plug-in electric heaters as their backup are incurring excessive cost for the cooperative membership.

Updated August 31, 2010

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