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A reliable energy future—for all weather conditions


Josh Kramer, executive vice president and general manager, NDAREC


Polar vortex and bomb cyclone are unwelcome terms, but they are terms we have come to know lately. This winter, these weather patterns challenged the wits and fortitude of many. We learned firsthand that extreme weather events do not discriminate, and the sustained cold, wind and precipitation can make life difficult.

Folks like me complain about the burden of keeping sidewalks and driveways clear during daily snowfall periods. But my snow blowing heroics pale in comparison to the effort of others, whose livelihoods require them to care for and protect people and animals, respond to emergencies and maintain roads and critical infrastructure, even in the most extreme elements. At times when most go in, they go out. For that, we owe our thanks!

I am proud of the proven service reliability provided by North Dakota’s electric cooperatives. The attention and priority electric co-ops place on continuously upgrading electrical infrastructure helps minimize the potential of large-scale storm-related outages. However, even the sturdiest infrastructure cannot always withstand Mother Nature’s wrath. When a line is down, rest assured your local electric co-op will dispatch a crew to repair and restore power as soon as safety allows.

Every day, electric cooperatives do their best to ensure power is provided to each member in their service area. That challenge includes power generation and transmission operators, who share the responsibility of maintaining an adequate power supply—during all weather conditions. This winter, that power supply was tested, as the demand for electricity surged during the polar vortex and sustained subzero temperatures.

When temperatures drop, solar panels and battery storage become less efficient. Wind generators often shut down at temperatures of 20 degrees below zero, and extended cold hampers natural gas systems, straining supply and increasing price. As a result, some utilities urged folks to lower their thermostats and limit energy usage during periods of extreme cold. Calls also went out to those who generate electricity, asking for production to be ramped up at baseload power plants. North Dakota’s electric cooperatives managed the conditions by maximizing electrical generation and utilizing demand response control programs.

Recent extreme weather events provided a lesson on the important role that baseload resources, such as coal and nuclear energy, play in ensuring the integrity of electrical infrastructure. As conversations about our energy future evolve, we must recognize that each energy source plays a role, yet has limitations, pros and cons.

As we learned this winter, a diverse, abundant energy mix is necessary to keep people safe. The challenges that arose from the polar vortex and bomb cyclone validate the importance of policies that support all energy assets, including clean coal technologies and nuclear, natural gas, solar and wind generation. We remain eager to work with all stakeholders in pursuit of policies that help guide us toward a reliable energy future and, above all, keep our members safe, warm and connected.

Josh Kramer, editor-in-chief of North Dakota Living, is executive vice president and general manager of NDAREC, P.O. Box 727, Mandan, ND 58554-0727; email to