Building a Brighter Future

May 26, 2021

How Renewables and Natural Gas Team Up in A Diverse Energy Portfolio

To meet the needs of our local members, now and into the future, Union Power and electric cooperatives statewide are adapting our energy sources and services. As the price of solar and other renewable resources is coming down, integrating more renewables is part of that transition. But outside of cost, renewables still present some challenges – for example, solar does not generate consistent power overnight, under clouds, or in the early or late parts of the day. So how can Union Powerenhance reliability with new energy technologies while also keeping electricity affordable and sustainable? It takes a diverse energy portfolio that combines powerhouse “always on” generation sources – like nuclear and natural gas – with the technologies and sustainable resources of the future.

Matching supply and demand

Co-ops must deliver exactly the right amount of power needed by members at every moment of the day. To do this, the supply of electricity on the grid must match demand at all times. If that balance isn’t met, members could lose power, and the system could be damaged.

Abundant, low-cost, consistent power

To ensure the needed amount of power is always available, Union Power, through its power supplier, has invested in a diverse energy portfolio that incorporates power from a variety of sources. Emissions-free nuclear power provides more than half of the power we deliver and is a steady, low-cost source that can run almost constantly.

Natural gas is another important piece of the energy-mix puzzle. It provides abundant power at a low cost and with lower emissions than other fossil fuels. It also has the flexibility to be dispatched quickly at any time, day or night.

This makes it an important pair for renewables that may generate power intermittently. As more renewables are added to the grid, cooperatives can quickly ramp up natural gas generation and support those resources to keep the grid stable. It is a critical source of flexible, low-cost generation as renewables grow.

The flexibility of natural gas is also critical for meeting power needs at times when members are using the most power, during peak demand, and when immediate response is needed if capacity dips.

Innovation for the future

Across the grid, electric cooperatives are working together to add smart new resources, including batteries for energy storage, microgrids, and control technologies that enable all of these resources to work together to provide the most value.

By coordinating new energy resources as they are added to the grid, electric cooperatives can increase reliability and save costs, especially during times of “peak demand” when electricity use is highest and wholesale power is most expensive. Because cooperatives like Union Power are not-for-profit, community-owned organizations that provide power to members at cost, savings directly benefit co-op members.

Looking ahead, cooperatives will continue to work to exceed your expectations by pursuing our vision to build a brighter future with reliable, affordable, and sustainable power and by coupling a diverse energy portfolio with smart energy innovations.