Back To School
Published: Friday, September 6, 2019
Electric co-ops are continually learning to improve service for members.
It’s a new school year and kids of all ages are getting ready for a fresh year of learning! From kindergarten through college, students attend school to gain knowledge about a broad variety of subjects and learn new skills that will prepare them for the future. In a similar vein, Stearns Electric Association is continually learning in order to advance technology that improves electric service, reliability, safety and in turn, enhances quality of life for the members we serve in our local communities.
Stearns Electric keeps abreast of industry trends because the energy sector is rapidly changing. Innovations in technology and energy types are fueling demand for more options. On the consumer front, people are looking for more ways to manage their energy use with smart technologies. Consumers expect more convenient payment methods – whether through automatic bill pay, pre-pay, online or in person.
We’re working to help sift through the options for our members in ways that benefit the greater community. At the same time, we never lose sight of the top priority––providing safe, reliable and affordable electricity.
Technology improves operational efficiency.
For example, automated meter reading (AMR) is the technology of automatically collecting energy consumption data and transferring it from the electric meter to the co-op. Because this information can be collected remotely, it enhances our system’s efficiency, helps control costs and improves work processes.
Similar to AMR, there is another technology called advanced metering infrastructure (AMI). This is an integrated system of smart meters, communications networks and data management systems that enables two-way communication between utilities and consumers. In the event of an outage, AMI helps to distinguish between events that impact a single home or multiple outages. This is critical because resolving either issue is a very different process. The two-way communication is integral to AMI because it provides a means to verify that power has been restored after an outage. However, one of the biggest benefits from improved technologies, especially for outages caused by extreme weather is pinpointing the outage location, which helps to reduce risk for crews out on the road during severe weather events.
In addition to providing essential information during major outages, Stearns Electric analyzes AMI data for anomalies including faults, damaged meters or energy theft. Detecting these problems early helps our cooperative save money and improve reliability for the whole community.
Energy for the future.
Consumer interest in green energy sources and renewables is at an all-time high. Nationally, the increasing use of solar energy is paving the way for new methods of generating and using electricity. In our region, community solar programs allow co-op members to share in a remote solar array that generates electricity from the sun. U.S. energy experts say we will not be able to meet national energy goals unless we increase our solar energy capacity.
That’s why Stearns Electric and Great River Energy, our wholesale power provider, continues to research how best to adjust our energy mix.
Whether it’s examining green energy options or exploring how emerging technologies can better serve our members, for Stearns Electric our “school year” is never over. We will continue to learn from our members about their priorities for the future, and we will continue to study and research the issues so that we can better serve you, now and in the future.
Mike Blenkush is no stranger to the electric cooperative industry. After beginning his career somewhat accidentally at Stearns Electric Association in the…