Using Portable Space Heaters Wisely

Electric space heaters can be a convenient heating supplement when used periodically to take the chill off a blustery day. However, they become increasingly ineffective for heating as the space gets larger. They can also be much more expensive to operate long-term as they are not eligible for lower, off-peak kWh pricing. 

Estimating the Cost of Running a Space Heater
We used TWEC’s Kill-A-Watt meter to figure out how many kWhs our space heater was using. Our heater used 1,500 watts on the high setting. To calculate our usage we used this formula: Watts/1,000 x Hours = kWh usage. We wanted to know the cost of usage for one hour on high and our usage came to 1.5 kWh. When multiplied by TWEC’s 11.5¢ rate per kilowatt-hour, we found it costs 17.3¢ per hour to run our heater on high. 

Now we can see what impact a space heater is having on our monthly bill. In this example, a space heater that uses 1,500 watts and operates 24 hours each day at 11.5¢ per kilowatt-hour costs $4.14 per day to operate. If you run it for 30 days, that would add $124.20 to your monthly bill! 

Using Your Space Heater Safely

  • Keep the heater at least 3 feet from flammable items such as curtains, furniture, or bedspreads.
  • Select a space heater with a guard around the heating element.
  • Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
  • Never leave a space heater unattended.
  • Never go to sleep with a space heater on.
  • Never use or store flammable liquids near a space heater.
  • Always keep heaters a safe distance from water to prevent electrocution.
  • Do not use an extension cord with a space heater.
  • Do not use the heater to dry clothes.
  • Be sure the heater’s plug fits snugly in an outlet. The cord and plug may feel warm when operating since the unit draws so much power, but they should not feel hot. If they do, unplug the heater and have a qualified repair person check for problems.
  • Do not attempt to repair a broken heater yourself. It should be checked and repaired by a qualified appliance service center.

Federal and State Updates — CEO Column November 2019

Daniel Carlisle
President/CEO

Numerous proposals are making their way through the House and Senate in  Washington, D.C. that have the potential to impact Minnesota electric cooperatives. I have been monitoring these and other legislative actions. The following is a summary of a few of these issues.

Section 48A Tax Credits
In 2005, Congress established the Section 48A investment tax credit to support highly efficient new and existing coal-based generation technologies. This bill was modified in 2008 and the requirements to be eligible for carbon capture and sequester projects were greatly changed. Cooperatives are seeking a change to this language so as to incentivize carbon capture efforts on new and existing coal plants.

Affordable Clean Energy Rule (ACE)
On June 19, 2019, the EPA released its final rule to replace the 2015 Clean Power Plan. Cooperatives generally support this new ACE rule, which directs states to develop standards of performance for individual power plants by applying a prescribed list of technologies that constitute the Best System of Emission Reduction (BSER) and which also recognizes the investments cooperatives have already made in their facilities to reduce CO2 emissions.

Leech Lake Land Transfer–Role Protection
The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe are pursuing a bill that would return approximately 11,760 acres of land in Cass County from the Chippewa National Forest Service back to the Leech Lake Band. This land was taken from members of the Leech Lake Band between 1948 through 1959. Cooperatives in Northern Minnesota have electric distribution lines on these lands and, on occasion, have had difficulty gaining adequate access to perform routine maintenance and vegetation management on these distribution systems. Cooperatives support the objective of this proposed legislation but seek amended language to ensure proper access to its distribution system for maintenance purposes.

In addition to the above federal actions, a multitude of state issues exist that we are monitoring.

Department of Labor and Industry–Wiring Affidavits
The State of Minnesota, though the Department of Labor and Industry, is interpreting a statute to require the payment of $36 and filing of a wiring affidavit by the cooperative when we upgrade load control receivers with new technology. This has the potential to cost Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative members $198,000 in fees to be paid to the state. The impact of this statute statewide is roughly $9 million dollars in fees for Great River Energy Cooperatives. Cooperatives, who utilize master electricians to perform these upgrades/changeouts, believe statutory exemptions exist that excuse inspection and payment of this fee. Discussions with state Department of Labor and Industry officials are ongoing, but whether or not a compromise can be reached remains to be seen.

GRE Rate Formula
There are 28 electric cooperatives that are part of the Great River Energy (GRE) family that purchase all or a fixed amount of their wholesale power from GRE. GRE, in turn, is one of 51 transmission providers that belong to the Midcontinent Independent System Operators (MISO). MISO oversees and regulates access to the electric grid and pricing for electricity from Manitoba down to Louisiana. Heat, cold, grid congestion, and other factors have an impact on the price that GRE pays for wholesale electricity from MISO. This, in turn, also impacts the formulaic price that distribution cooperatives, like Todd-Wadena, pay for electricity. There is currently discussion and much analysis being done regarding the ways the formulaic price we are paying for electricity gets calculated. Specifically, the price components related to transmission charges (fees paid, in part, to use another utility company’s wires to deliver electricity through them) are being evaluated and proposals are being developed to update and change the applicable formulas. Todd-Wadena currently has the lowest charge per kW of all 28 co-ops in the GRE family. It is possible that this may change in the future. We are actively involved in this process and remain mindful of our obligation to provide safe, reliable, and affordable electricity to our members.

The future will undoubtedly bring new, and equally important, challenges to our cooperative. We will continue to do our best to stay abreast of these issues and to communicate with our members about them.

Daniel Carlisle
President/CEO

Looking to the Future of Electric Vehicles

Your Board of Directors is constantly looking at ways to help bring more revenue into Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative in order to keep our rates low. One exciting, cost-saving technology that is finally gaining traction is electric vehicles (EVs). While it may take some time before we see a lot of EVs around Todd-Wadena’s service area, it is worth noting how people also thought that about electric water heaters – and look where we are now. New technology is making today’s EVs some of the safest, quietest, and fastest vehicles on the road today.

National Drive Electric Week just wrapped up with ‘Ride and Drive’ events all across the country, including an event at our very our Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative Headquarters during the Member Appreciation Breakfast. Having the privilege of serving the membership, I am constantly looking for ways to make our Co-op relevant today and into the future. Younger generations were not fortunate enough to see the lights come on, so for them the Co-op may just seem like an electric provider instead of a member investment that pays dividends and invests in the community for the future.

One of the ways we can connect with this younger generation is through electric vehicles. Being an EV driver myself, I am proving the technology is here today to make EVs not only a commuter vehicle but viable for long distance road trips too. Most of my charging is done at home, but there are new chargers coming online every day for those long road trips. If you crunch the numbers, driving an EV makes a lot of sense (or should I say dollars and cents…). According to the Idaho National Laboratory, most EVs cost between 2-4¢ per mile to drive, whereas a comparable gasoline car will cost between 11-15¢ per mile to drive.

Another benefit is that they are a lot of fun to drive. The instant torque cannot be understated and the quietness of an EV has the federal government figuring out how to make them produce more noise so people “hear” them coming. Electric vehicles are also setting the bar higher for new safety standards. One final benefit I should mention is the reduced maintenance costs. I could go on and on, so if you would like to find out more information and see if an EV is the right fit for you, give the Co-op or myself a call. You can learn more at www.pluginconnect.com.

Miles Kuschel
TWEC Board President

Business Spotlight: Omega Hardwoods

With more than 85 different sizes of pallets manufactured at its plant in Menahga, Omega Hardwoods is one of the top pallet suppliers in the upper Midwest. The company produces both light-duty and heavy-duty pallets in standard sizes, along with custom orders. This flexibility allows them to serve a large variety of industries – from printing to pet food, from aerospace to agriculture.

“One of the key things about Omega Hardwoods is that we are a KDHT [kiln dried heat treated] certified company,” says owner Lori Tomperi. “This allows our pallets to be shipped internationally.” KDHT certification means they can supply industries requiring high sanitation levels and those that ship products across international borders.

In addition to offering a large variety of pallets, Omega Hardwoods also has pallet stock and components for sale. As with the assembled pallets, the components are available in heat-treated pine, hardwoods like oak and birch, and lighter weight aspen. The company’s own trucks deliver pallets within Minnesota, with shipping partners making deliveries to locations across the Midwest.

Family-oriented Business

Omega Hardwoods currently employs 18 people and has established itself as a reliable company with over 25 years in business. “We’re really big into being a family-oriented business,” Tomperi notes. She and her husband Durwin are owners/operators, their daughter Paige Olson works as the office administrator, and son-in-law Cole Olson is the operations manager. Several other family members have also worked at the business.

“We’ve also hired a variety of families over the years,” Tomperi continues. “We’ve had husbands and wives, fathers and sons, and brothers all working here together.”

TWEC Helps Promote Efficiency

Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative is committed to helping local businesses succeed. The cooperative recently worked with Omega Hardwoods to determine the best rate when considering their electric usage.

“We enrolled them in our interruptible rate, which is a great rate with the ability for Todd-Wadena to control when needed,” explains Allison Uselman, member services manager at TWEC. “However, they had some equipment that could not be shut down during a control event. So, we worked with Omega Hardwoods to keep them on the interruptible rate; however, instead of full interruptible they went with a partial interruptible giving them the ability to keep certain equipment running.”

“Todd-Wadena has also helped us find ways to be more efficient with our electrical use,” Tomperi adds. “They explained the benefits of switching to LED lights and assisted us in getting rebates to help with the cost of the switch. The new lights are way more efficient and don’t put out as much heat.”

A large variety of pallet products, a dedicated workforce, and a focus on energy efficiency make Omega Hardwoods a successful local business. Their commitment to personalized service, consistent quality, and efficient delivery is recognized throughout the region.

Cybersecurity — September 2019 CEO Column

Daniel Carlisle
President/CEO

Security on all fronts is a top priority at Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative. One of the areas I would like to focus on this month is cybersecurity.

Each October is officially designated as National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. By raising awareness and implementing cybersecurity practices, we are working to combat cyber threats to protect our members, employees, and our cooperative infrastructure. As the energy sector continues to be a target for cyber attacks, I want our members to know we take our role in managing cybersecurity threats to our members’ data and our operations seriously.

To keep cybersecurity front of mind for our employees, we utilize KnowBe4 – a security awareness training program combined with simulated phishing attacks. We use this platform to train employees to learn which red flags to look for and how to keep themselves and our network protected. Topics are kept relevant, which is critically important with the nature of cyber attacks always changing. 

Social engineering is another threat we prepare for. This involves manipulating or deceiving someone in order to gain control of a computer or learn private information. The attack can come via phone, email, mail, or direct contact. We are aware of this threat and have processes in place to confirm the identity of anyone who contacts us requesting information. 

As a cooperative, we also keep our anti-virus software and firewalls updated with the latest patches and firmwares. We share cybersecurity resources and information with other co-ops to help build stronger cybersecurity programs and mitigate potential threats and vulnerabilities.

TWEC remains cyber aware through:

  • Implementing rigorous security standards and technology to protect systems
  • Forging close partnerships to protect our systems
  • Engaging in active information sharing about threats and vulnerabilities

By increasing awareness and enhancing understanding of basic cybersecurity practices, we can all work together to combat cyber threats.

Stay safe and enjoy the beautiful fall weather!

FREE Member Appreciation Breakfast and Electric Vehicle Ride & Drive Event

All Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative members are invited to attend the 4th Annual Member Appreciation Pancake Breakfast on Saturday, September 21st at the TWEC Headquarters from 8-11:00 A.M.

Pancakes and sausage will be served, along with activities for the whole family! Kids can enjoy the bounce house obstacle course, and kids activities. Don’t forget to stop by the Hotline Safety Demonstration this year!

New this year is an Electric Vehicle (EV) Ride & Drive Event. There will be Evs on display, and EV owners who can answer questions. Member will have an opportunity to take an EV out for a test drive during the 8-11:00 A.M.

Using Technology to Better Serve Members — August 2019 CEO Message

Daniel Carlisle
President/CEO

By staying up-to-date with technology and embracing new innovations in the industry, we are able to fulfill our cooperative’s mission of providing safe, reliable, and affordable power for members. Here are a few of the ways Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative uses technology to benefit our staff and members:

NISC – National Information Solutions Cooperative (NISC) is our primary technology for member information, billing, accounting, purchasing, and asset management. NISC is useful for streamlining our business processes and improving customer service.

NISC/SmartHub – Both of these services were recently utilized to offer electronic voting during our last election. NISC also gives TWEC the ability to send text notifications to our Commercial & Industrial and Irrigation accounts for load control.

PYXIS Outage Management System – In the event of a power outage, PYXIS Outage Management System (OMS) allows us to locate the problem and predict the cause of the outage. Our after-hours service, Cooperative Response Center, relies on PYXIS OMS to dispatch outages to crews after-hours. PYXIS is also used to identify the locations of generators and renewables mapped on TWEC’s devices to keep crews safe when they are out working in the field.

iPads – The co-op uses iPads to help map out jobs, for electronic job briefings, keep track of the wood pole/wood chip list, and to communicate with the office on service work.

Automatic Vehicle Locating – We can manage our fleet and crews from anywhere utilizing Automatic Vehicle Locating (AVL). This tool tracks crew vehicles and provides system operators with the exact location of all the field crews working on the system. By monitoring crew locations, system operators can determine who is closest and can assist in restoration the fastest. This can be especially useful when working to restore widespread power outages.

Automated Metering Infrastructure – The primary function of the Aclara TWACS Automated Metering Infrastructure (AMI) system is to provide two-way communication between the cooperative and the endpoint electric meters. Our AMI system allows members to monitor their energy usage. It also gives us the ability to monitor extended outages.

As technology improves, we at Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative will continue to work with our wholesale power provider, Great River Energy, and others to best leverage this new technology to benefit our members and to keep our electric system reliable. We are committed to serving you!

Member Appreciation Pancake Breakfast

Join Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative on Saturday, September 21, at the Headquarters for the annual Member Appreciation Pancake Breakfast. There will be electric vehicles (EVs) on display for members to view and even test drive!

 

Saturday, September 21st

8-11 A.M.

  • Free Breakfast
  • Kids Activities
  • Electrical Safety Demonstration
  • Electric Vehicle Ride and Drive (Test Drive an EV!)

Movie on the Field in Bertha on August 28th!

Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative invites you to attend “Movie on the Field” in Bertha on Wednesday, August 28th.

The community is invited to play yard games at 7:15 P.M., prior to the movie showing. The movie, “How to Train Your Dragon” will air at 8:15 P.M.Free popcorn will be served. Bring your lawn chairs and/or blankets for this fun family event!

Youth Tour 2019

More than 1,800 students from across the nation took part in the 2019 Electric Cooperative Youth Tour June 15th-20th. Thirty-seven high school students representing Minnesota’s locally-owned electric cooperatives, including TWEC’s representative, Maggie Erickson, took part in this leadership opportunity in Washington, D.C.

Maggie Erickson, a senior this fall at Sebeka High School, attended the 2019 Youth Tour as the representative for Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative. “My favorite part of the trip was seeing our nation’s congress. As someone very interested in politics, watching actual change being made to our country in person was so interesting. Also, observing our very own senators representing Minnesota was a cool moment. We even got a wave from Senator Bernie Sanders,” Erickson says. “I learned that no matter your political opinion, you can still accomplish great things if you cooperate and be respectful.”

Youth Tour students participated in leadership training, engaged in conversations with elected officials, jumpstarted their national peer network, attended educational sessions about cooperatives, and toured the famous sites of Washington, D.C. throughout the trip. Erickson says she learned a lot on the trip, not only about cooperatives and how they work, but also about the impact the younger generation will have.

During the tour, the Minnesota group visited historic sites including Mount Vernon, Arlington National Cemetery, the National Cathedral, and many monuments. The group also visited several museums including the Holocaust Memorial Museum, Marine Corps Museum, and some of the Smithsonians.

“I would absolutely recommend this trip. It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You will see and experience things that will stick with you throughout your life. Not to mention getting to meet some amazing people. Thanks again for this wonderful opportunity,” Erickson concludes.