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2022 Customer Newsletter

Minnesota Crews Return Home

Minnesota crews returning from mutual aid efforts in Bartow, Florida

On Friday, September 30, crews of municipal utility lineworkers and support staff assembled by the Minnesota Municipal Utilities Association (MMUA) arrived in Bartow, Florida to assist in restoring power to customers and repairing damage caused by Hurricane Ian. The crews initially headed to Kissimmee, Florida, but the storm diverted from its projected path, leaving the city’s power systems with less damage than predicted. The MMUA-led crews were then requested by officials on the ground to assist in Bartow.

Each of the four crews included a seasoned journeyman lead, which made crew dispatch more efficient in tackling the diverse challenges they encountered. The damage in Bartow was widespread with mature oak trees blocking roadways, broken poles, wire on the ground, and power outages for thousands of utility customers. Over the weekend, 117 municipal utility workers from across the country, including the 40 members of the Minnesota crews, worked to restore power to citizens. On Wednesday morning, October 5, the Minnesota crews began their trip home after being released by the city of Bartow. MMUA thanks the utilities and communities of Alexandria, Anoka, Austin, Brainerd, Buffalo, Elk River, Marshall, Missouri River Energy Services, Moorhead, New Ulm, Owatonna, Rochester, Shakopee, and Willmar for answering the call to assist hometown power in Florida.

Energy Alert Information

Potential risk of electric service interruptions this summer across our region

As summer approaches, regional operators of the electric grid are projecting an elevated risk of electricity shortages in our area. These projections are due to:

  • Warmer than normal forecasted temperatures.
  • Greater amounts of intermittent renewable generation, such as wind and solar, in the current power supply mix that may not be available when needed.
  • Retirements of fossil-fueled power plants that can fill the gap when the wind doesn’t blow, or the sun doesn’t shine.
  • Public policy driving the pace of change to clean energy faster than new technologies can be developed to fill the gap.

Electricity is a unique product in the fact that the generation of electricity must be kept in balance with the usage of electricity at all times. Under normal conditions, regional grid operators ramp generators up or down to match the demand for electricity. If the demand for electricity outpaces available generation, then grid operators issue Energy Alerts or even Energy Emergency alerts to balance the electric system to avoid catastrophic failure of the grid.

If Energy Alert or Energy Emergency conditions occur this summer, regional utilities will run all types of available generation to prevent electrical outages. Should such an event occur, Willmar Municipal Utilities is prepared to run our local generators, and we may call upon local businesses that have generators to do the same. Other steps include operating our load management system, which cycles air conditioners and water heaters off and on for brief periods.

During an ENERGY ALERT, WMU will ask you, our customers, to reduce your energy use as much as possible to help us avoid outages. Some of the ways you can help are turning up your thermostat a few degrees, close your drapes or blinds to keep the sun out, shut off all unnecessary lights and equipment, and delay using large appliances like ovens, washing machines and dishwashers until later in the evening.

If these and other measures are not successful, the regional grid operator will issue an ENERGY EMERGENCY.

This will require that utilities initiate a series of controlled temporary outages, or rolling blackouts, to maintain the stability of the electric grid. In that situation, Willmar Municipal Utilities will methodically shut off electrical circuits in the community, one after the other, with outages expected not to last more than 2 hours.

If you rely on life support equipment in your home, please let us know as soon as possible at 320-235-4422.

Although we can’t control energy emergencies, Willmar Municipal Utilities and our power supplier, Missouri River Energy Services, are prepared to do everything possible to keep the lights on and keep homes and businesses running.

Please listen for radio announcements on local radio stations, KWLM 1340 AM, KQIC 102.5 FM, KOLV 100.1 FM, and KLFN 106.5 FM, and follow us on Facebook for updates and information.

WMU would like to extend a sincere THANK YOU in advance for doing your part.

WMU SAFTEY AWARD FROM APPA

WILLMAR MUNICIPAL UTILITIES HONORED WITH NATIONAL AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING SAFETY PRACTICES WASHINGTON, D.C., March 29, 2022

– Willmar Municipal Utilities has earned the American Public Power Association’s Safety Award of Excellence for safe operating practices in 2021. The utility earned First Place award in the category for utilities with 30,000-59,999 worker-hours of annual worker exposure.

“In our industry, safety is the top priority,” said Bob Scudder, Chair of APPA’s Safety Committee and Industrial Hygiene and Corporate Risk Manager at Grand River Dam Authority. “This is a commitment that needs to come from the top down and permeate every aspect of operations. These awarded utilities have embraced this priority, and they deserve to be celebrated.”

318 utilities from across the country entered the annual Safety Awards. Entrants were placed in categories according to their number of worker-hours and ranked based on the most incident-free records during 2021. The incidence rate, used to judge entries, is based on the number of work-related reportable injuries or illnesses and the number of worker-hours during 2021, as defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

“Willmar Municipal Utilities values employee safety above all else,” said John Harren, General Manager of Willmar Municipal Utilities. “We all recognize the importance of going home to our families each day; this is what drives our dedication to safety.”

The Safety Awards have been held annually for more than 65 years. APPA is the voice of not-for-profit, community-owned utilities that power 2,000 towns and cities nationwide.

MRES 2022 Scholarship

June 2021 Water Restrictions

News Release

Willmar Municipal Utilities has issued Mandatory Watering Restrictions starting today, Friday, June 11th, 2021. Lawn watering and irrigation will be limited to all property based on address numbers. Addresses ending in an even number can water lawns on even-numbered days and addresses ending in an odd number can water lawns on odd-numbered days.

This action was taken to reduce peak water usage in areas served by the city’s system.

Additionally, because of how much water is lost to evaporation, no watering is permitted between 10a.m. and 6 p.m.

Watering of newly sodded or seeded yards is exempt from the odd and even day restriction for two weeks.

  • Over seeding or spot repair of existing, established yards may be watered daily with a hand- controlled hose during allowed times.
  • Activities such as car washing, water toys, and filling small swimming pools are exempt.
  • Hand watering of newly planted trees, flower pots, baskets, and vegetable gardens is permitted at any time.
  • Any sprinkler system not served by the city’s system is exempt.

These restrictions will be until further notice.

Thank you on behalf of the staff at WMU

2021 Polar Vortex Emergency

NEWS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                         03/04/2021

Willmar Municipal Utility’s customers should not see higher electric rates as result of winter storm

Last week Willmar and its power suppliers saw an unprecedented perfect storm of events that affected the reliability of the power grid throughout the central U.S. Despite this perfect storm, WMU does not expect to raise rates to its electric customers due to the historic cold weather that caused significant increases in energy demand on the U.S. power grid last week. WMU also doesn’t expect a rate increase from its power suppliers.

The event highlighted the critical need in the electric industry for a diverse, flexible and robust generation mix to ensure that there is always sufficient electricity available.

Severely cold temperatures throughout the region caused a high demand for electricity. At the same time, many electric generating plants failed to perform during the extreme weather event, particularly in the southern U.S.

  • Wind units failed to perform due to lack of wind in the region, along with icing conditions in the south.
  • Solar failed to perform due to heavy cloud cover.
  • Coal and gas generation in southern states failed to perform due to freezing of gas wells or freezing at the plants themselves
  • In addition, limited gas supplies across the region played a significant part in the crisis situation.

Willmar has four power providers.

  • Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) supplies a specified amount of hydroelectric power to our community from the dams on the Missouri River, and
  • Missouri River Energy Services (MRES) supplies the remainder of the power used in Willmar. MRES has a diverse mix of resources in terms of both fuel sources and geographic locations, including: 
    • Hydroelectric
    • Coal
    • Natural gas
    • Wind
    • Solar
    • Diesel
  • Central Municipal Power Agency and Services supplies a specified amount of nuclear power
  • Great River Energy supplies a specified amount of power from a mix of resources.

All MRES electric generation plants operated to the fullest extent possible during the emergency event and performed well. The natural gas power plant, located in central Iowa and operated by MRES, switched to diesel fuel operation when natural gas was curtailed.

During the winter storm, several MRES member communities in Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota successfully operated their local diesel generators to support power supply in the Southwest Power Pool region.  SPP is one of two regional transmission organizations (RTO) serving MRES members that oversees the reliability of the electric grid and operates a wholesale power market in the central U.S. Members with generating units in the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) RTO region were not asked to run their generators.

When renewable resources are not available and fossil fuel generation is needed to provide energy and reliability support, WMU offsets the carbon emissions produced by the fossil fuels with our purchase of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs). REC are proof that electricity was generated by qualifying clean, renewable facilities and are fed into the electric grid on our behalf. WMU will purchase RECs to offset all carbon emissions from fossil fuels throughout 2021.

The diverse resources in the power supply mix that serves Willmar provide protection for our community against the unavailability of particular fuel sources, such as wind and natural gas during this event. Along with providing energy and reliability support for the region, the generating assets of MRES provide protection against high market prices. The MRES generators, which operated during the crisis, will be paid the market price for energy generated. These market payments will cover the costs of generation.

Additionally, MRES has an energy risk management program that enables it to maintain stable rates during extreme events like the polar vortex. Under the program, MRES makes advance energy purchases in the MISO market at fixed prices. These fixed-price purchases lessen the exposure to fluctuating prices in the energy market and add another layer of financial protection for MRES and its members.  

“The final financial impact to MRES and its members of the higher energy market prices during the February 2021 polar vortex is currently unknown.” said MRES Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Merlin Sawyer. “However, the MRES financial risk management strategies, along with the operation of our power plants, allowed us to meet our capacity and energy requirements while avoiding exposure to the daily energy market. We do not expect to be adversely impacted by the recent high energy prices and we don’t anticipate any negative rate impacts to our members. Without the risk management strategies, a rate increase would have been likely.”

Many resources throughout the U.S. failed to perform during this extreme weather event. However, the resources serving WMU were available, reliable and flexible and they performed as anticipated. “Our long-term relationship and power supply contract with MRES gives us confidence that we can expect affordable, reliable electricity well into the future,” said John Harren, General Manager of Willmar Municipal Utilities.

For more information, contact Christopher Radel Energy Coordinator at cradel@wmu.willmar.mn.us

Small Cities Development Program

Todd Allen Graves Service Appreciation

Passing of Line Supervisor Todd Allen Graves

Obituary

Todd A. Graves, age 58, of Spicer, passed away unexpectedly Friday morning, Jan. 22, at his residence.  

A private family service will be held on Monday, Feb. 8, at the Open Door Church in Spicer.  A public celebration of life service will be held later this summer.  Arrangements are with the Peterson Brothers Green Lake Funeral Home in Spicer.  www.petersonbrothers.com  

Todd Allen Graves was born on November 27, 1962, in St. Cloud, Minnesota, the son of Gerald and Rosemary (Doeden) Graves.  He grew up in St. Cloud, attended Apollo High School and then the Minnesota West Community College in Jackson.  Todd was employed with the Willmar Municipal Utilities for almost 30 years.  He began working as a lineman and was currently a supervisor.  Todd attended the Open Door Church in Spicer.  He enjoyed playing guitar, painting, reading, fishing and being outdoors.  He had a wonderful sense of humor and a very infectious laugh.  Todd cherished being with his family. 

 He is survived by his two children, Michael Thometz of Spicer and Nichole (and Dana) Huston of Sartell; two grandchildren, Lucy and Tyler Huston; his mother, Rosemary Graves of St. Cloud and two siblings, Tam (and Ed) Croteau of Foley and Dan Graves of Roseau, besides other relatives and friends.  

He was preceded in death by his father and grandparents, Charles and Viola Graves and Fred and Inez Doeden.

Download of the Obituary here