March 2020 LightREADING Newsletter

Download: March 2020 Light Reading (PDF)


Resource adequacy:

Meeting the region’s energy needs

Renewable Energy
The push to green energy and reduced carbon emissions begs the question: will we have sufficient and reliable power?

The following article (edited for space) is courtesy of the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), the wholesale power provider for Flathead Electric Cooperative and for 28% of all electric power used in the Northwest. 

Across the Northwest, states are committing to carbon-free power and setting landmark clean energy goals. To meet these goals, utilities are retiring coal plants. By 2030 – just over 10 years from now – a total of 18,000 megawatts of coal generation will have been taken offline in the Western Interconnection. That’s equivalent to 18 average-sized nuclear plants, or about 18 Bonneville dams.

Coal plant retirements will drive down greenhouse gas emissions but create a new challenge: ensuring the region continues to have an adequate supply of power resources and transmission to deliver the power. Not just clean resources, but reliable, controllable resources that can meet energy demands across all hours.

Meeting the peaks

Resource adequacy is the ability to meet consumers’ energy needs. Utilities must be prepared to meet energy demand under all scenarios, not just average conditions. In other words, we need capacity – available energy that can be called upon as needed to meet the extremes.

How is resource adequacy measured?

In the Northwest, analysts take many factors into consideration – from the streamflow variation to weather, which drives power demand, and to the potential for generation or transmission line outages that could keep power from being produced or delivered. The most recent study shows that the demand for energy is already starting to outpace supply, and the Northwest could experience capacity shortages as soon as next year.

What happens without resource adequacy?

Sometimes, a power shortage can mean the lights stay on but electricity becomes more expensive, just as the cost of other goods increases when demand rises and supply is tight. Other times, a power shortage means the electrical grid crashes and there’s a complete loss of power, known as a blackout.

What’s being done now to keep the lights on in the future?

Hungry Horse Dam
The Hungry Horse Dam contributes to BPA’s (and therefore FEC’s) energy mix.

The region is building new renewable, carbon-free generating resources – namely, wind and solar. These power plants can produce energy if the weather is right, but by themselves won’t supply the flexible capacity the region will need.

Thankfully, the Northwest has an abundance of hydropower. Hydropower is not only carbon free, it supplies valuable capacity, as it can be ramped up or down quickly to meet changing energy demands. This reliability and flexibility make hydropower the perfect partner to other renewables like wind and solar, allowing their seamless integration into the grid.

In addition, the region is coming together through the Northwest Power Pool to create a regional resource adequacy program. This program will address the segmented nature of the region’s power grid, where many different entities are responsible for different portions of the grid and have historically done resource planning on an individual basis.

By addressing the issue of resource adequacy now, the Northwest is on the right path to meet the energy needs of the future.


It’s time to take action to support our hydropower!

Take Action

Federal agencies recently released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) of the Columbia River hydropower system operations. The draft does not recommend dam breaching; however, a lot can change between now and the final decision later this year. If there is not strong public support in favor of the lower Snake River dams, the agencies could reconsider their position.

Breaching of the lower Snake River dams would have a detrimental impact on the Northwest, and on the members of Flathead Electric Co-op, including an increased risk of blackouts due to insufficient power supply and increased power costs.

We are asking members of Flathead Electric Co-op to take action to protect the future of our affordable, carbon-free hydropower.

Here’s what you can do


Flathead Electric Cooperative achieves significant energy savings in 2019

Energy Efficiency

Flathead Electric Cooperative is pleased to report that it saved enough energy through efficiency efforts last year to energize 776 average-usage homes for a year. Energy efficiency is a valuable resource because energy savings the Co-op achieves is energy that doesn’t have to be purchased, which benefits us all. The following are examples of energy/money saving accomplishments for 2019:

  • Flathead Electric Co-op paid its members and program partners over $1.8 million for energy efficiency efforts that saved a combined total of 9,300 megawatt hours of electricity.
  • In the residential sector (which encompasses efficiency measures such as replacing heating systems, appliances, lights, windows, adding insulation and other weatherization measures), incentives totaled over $859,000 (almost double incentives paid in 2018).
  • In the commercial category (which primarily consists of lighting and custom projects with the Co-op’s commercial and industrial members), total incentives topped $911,000. Included in that amount were other efficiency efforts in the areas of improvements on the Co-op’s system, such as reconductoring electrical wire to prevent energy loss, which added up to over $37,000.

Since 2009, Flathead Electric’s efficiency programs have saved members and the Cooperative as-a-whole, over 109,000 megawatt hours, which is enough energy to power over 9,000 homes for a year. The Bonneville Power Administration, the Co-op’s wholesale power supplier, supports Flathead Electric’s energy efficiency efforts with reimbursements for qualified energy efficiency measures for members. Additionally, Flathead Electric offers members a 3% fixed-rate loan to achieve higher efficiency in their homes.

To learn how you can save energy and money, call (406)-751-4483 and ask for the Energy Efficiency Team.


Annual Meeting Livestream

Annual Meeting is March 21st

All members are invited to attend our Annual Meeting on March 21. If you are unable to join us in-person, a live stream of the event will be available on our  facebook page. Visit our website to learn more about the 2020 Annual Meeting.


Co-op Connection

Get to know the people working for you.

Elma GiavasisElma Giavasis – Roundup for Safety Director, District #7

Q. What do you bring to the Roundup for Safety Board?

A. Through my business, I’ve worked with many Flathead Valley non-profits, and I understand the challenges they face. With a lack of state and national funding, these groups truly have their work cut out for them.

Q. What’s the best thing about serving as a director?

A. Our Valley relies heavily on non-profit organizations for many critical, local services. I’m thrilled to be able to give something in return through the Roundup for Safety Board.

Q. If you had a super-power, what would it be?

A. Reversing global warming seems like the most functional superpower – like a modern-day Captain Planet but with better hair and more clothing than a pair of red undies.


Roundup Report

Grant to benefit senior citizens in Libby

Libby Senior Citizens Center
Libby Senior Citizens Center

A $3,000 Roundup for Safety grant will fund protective barriers for the front of the Senior Center in Libby. Last year, a vehicle ran through the outside wall/window of the facility, and there was significant damage. Applicant Dedi Coy says the Center is used by the greater community in Libby to gather for any number of reasons.

“At the time of the accident, several people were within range of the vehicle when it accidentally entered through an exterior wall, but we escaped any injuries this time. The barriers will help seniors who are playing cards, eating dinner or sitting by the fire.”

February Projects Funded

  • Columbia Falls Police Department
    Trauma medical bags for patrol cars $2,000
  • NW MT Association of Realtors
    AED $1,200
  • Friends of the Flathead Snowmobile Assoc.
    Level 1 avalanche safety courses $1,200
  • City of Kalispell – Hedges School
    Slow down signage $8,000
  • Oro Y Plata Foundation Volunteer
    Park pole relocation $4,000
  • Kalispell Youth Softball Association
    Fencing for backstop $2,240
  • Columbia Falls United Methodist Church
    CPR training and AED $1,200

Roundup for Safety is a voluntary program for FEC members who round up their electric bills to the next dollar. This money goes into a fund for community safety projects.

To apply for a Roundup for Safety grant, visit Roundup for Safety. Thank you to the thousands of Flathead Electric members who round up their bill for safety! Together, we are making a difference in our community.