Weather Forecast


Conservation efforts lead to slight decline in electric load for city utility

WILLMAR — Willmar Municipal Utilities and other utilities in Minnesota are seeing a slight decline in electricity consumption.

One reason could be the state mandate that requires utilities to reduce annual kilowatt sales by 1.5 percent every year, says Chris Carlson, Willmar Utilities power supply broker. Another reason could be due to consumer education about energy efficiency.

“I’ve talked to many other power supply people and they all have said the same thing,’’ said Carlson, who budgets power supply for the Willmar Utilities.

Carlson presented a six-year history of Willmar’s electric load between 2008 through 2013 to the Municipal Utilities Commission on Monday. While the load has fluctuated from year to year, the overall trend is downward, she said.

Prior to 2008, the load and energy consumption rose 1½ to 2½ percent. Looking at year-to-year fluctuations after 2008, the load fell sharply by 2.54 percent from 301,654 megawatts in 2008 to 293,978 megawatts in 2009.

In an interview, Carlson said the decline in 2009 was due to the recession. She said businesses were closing, fewer homes were buying power and leases were not being renewed, among other factors.

The load rebounded 2.58 percent to 301,559 megawatts in 2010, due to new load.

Afterward, the load began a gradual two-year decline of 1.74 percent to 296,352 at the end of 2012.

Through 2013, the load ticked up slightly by 0.35 percent to 297,375 megawatts, possibly due to home and business construction.

“I think this is going to continue to be the norm now where load goes up, but then we start reducing,’’ said Carlson. “Hopefully with a better economy, maybe we’ll see more load growth than what we have in the past.’’

Carlson said the historical information helps her plan and budget annual power purchases. The information is also useful, she said, for the Energy Services Department, which promotes energy conservation.

In other discussion at Monday’s meeting, water and heating Superintendent Bart Murphy is reminding utility customers that the possibility remains of frozen water services due to the cold weather and the unusually deep frost in the ground.

He said the concern will continue well into April, “even though it feels like we turned a corner’’ with Monday’s fair weather.

“The frost is still very deep and the guidance that we gave two weeks ago still applies: be aware, be vigilant. The water is still very cold and the frost is still very deep,’’ he said.

Two weeks ago, Murphy advised Willmar water customers to help prevent their water service lines from freezing by running the tap until the water feels cool and measure it with a thermometer. If the temperature is 35-36 degrees, a customer may have an impending problem.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150