Midwest Energy

Fast Facts

Program Name: Midwest Energy Pump$mart
Program Period: June, July, and August
Program Hours: 2 p.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday, excluding holidays
Dispatch Notification: Minimum 2 hours notice via phone, text, and/or email
Dispatch Duration: Up to 4 hours, 20 events maximum, total of no more than 80 hours
Demand Response Strategy: Remote curtailment of irrigation pumps
Response Methods: Automatic shutdown of irrigation pumps

The Big Picture

Midwest Energy, Inc serves 48,000 electric and 42,000 gas customers in a 41-county area that includes most of the western half of Kansas. Its mission is to provide safe, reliable, and efficient energy services to these customers—and to deliver innovative, affordable, and environmentally sound solutions. Midwest Energy is experiencing significant load growth and searching for cost-effective strategies to meet rising demand. It also faces significant capacity cost increases, due to the higher cost of new purchased or owned generation.

To address the dual pressures of increased demand and limited cost-effective options to increase supply, Midwest Energy turned to Enel X in 2009 to conduct a pilot turnkey agricultural demand response program. The program quickly proved successful for Midwest Energy and the agricultural customers that participated in the program. During a dispatch, irrigation wells providing water for pivot irrigation were temporarily shut down without affecting crops. The payments received for participation were very attractive to Midwest Energy’s customers and the pilot enabled Midwest Energy to avoid more expensive supply options.

Based on the success of the pilot, Midwest Energy tripled the size of the program in 2011 and quickly exceeded its targets. As Midwest Energy continues to expand the program, Enel X provides a reliable, viable source of energy and capacity during critical summer months. And Enel X serves as an ongoing, trusted partner for attracting new accounts, implementing state-of-the-art irrigation-pump load control systems and delivering capacity when dispatched—quickly and reliably.

Engaging Agricultural Customers

Midwest Energy is a cooperative that includes approximately 2,000 agricultural accounts, which it estimates account for approximately 45 megawatts (MW) of peak irrigation load. During hot summer months, Midwest Energy experiences high demand from these agricultural accounts, which use energy-intensive irrigation pumps.

“In our area, it’s pretty easy to see that irrigation load corresponds to our system peak,” says Michael Volker, Director of Regulatory and Energy Services. “Agricultural accounts are the low-hanging fruit when it comes to temporarily reducing load to match supply.”

Successful agricultural demand response solutions require that farmers recognize that shutting down pumps temporarily is both financially beneficial and an operationally sound practice. “Our farmers have learned and accepted that putting water on crops in the middle of a hot summer afternoon does very little in terms of providing moisture,” says Volker. “Knowing that there will be a limited number of interruptions, for well-defined periods of times, most of our farmers seem willing to curtail energy use for a few hours instead of paying on-peak energy rates for more hours.”

The most compelling benefit for agricultural accounts is financial, since farmers must always look for opportunities to cut costs and maximize revenues. But there are other benefits, as well as program details, that are important to participants. To get this message out in a clear and compelling manner, Enel X and Midwest Energy conducted popular “town hall meetings” and invited farmers to attend. “The meetings went really well,” recalls Volker. “We signed up a lot of customers and certainly got the farmers talking about the program. The meetings were informal. We offered midday and evening meetings in two central locations where potential participants in the program were located.”

Questions about the program at these events centered on potential operational impact and details about curtailment procedures, as well as the financial benefits. Many farmers had participated in a previous program that relied on hardware devices that were time and temperature-dependent. This earlier technology resulted in frequent and unannounced shutdowns (a red light simply came on and the pump shut down). Farmers were pleased to hear that the program would be based on need, with potential shutdowns announced well in advance. In short, the “no surprises” approach taken by Enel X and Midwest Energy appealed to them.

In addition, participants gain access to Enel X’s powerful suite of online tools, which enable them to view real-time energy usage and maximize dispatch performance. Through this technology-enabled solution, participants can control pump equipment directly from their phones and computers—saving time, energy, and money.

Midwest Energy is targeting customers with peak summer demand greater than 30 kilowatts, which includes more than 2,000 accounts. Participation in Midwest Energy’s Pump$mart—as Midwest Energy named the program—is contingent on use of at least a 40 horsepower motor at the pumping site. Sites with a 25 horsepower motor could participate by paying a $500 installation fee. For participation, Midwest Energy pays $20 per kW of interrupted capacity, with that rate escalating higher in subsequent years of participation.

Response from agricultural accounts was quick and extremely positive, both during the pilot stage and beyond. “We didn’t realize the program would ramp up so quickly,” says Volker. “Our original goal for the first full year of implementing the program was 7 MW but we greatly exceeded that goal, with a subscribed load of 10.4 MW. And I believe the program can still double in size.”

Enel X works closely with Midwest Energy to market the Pump Curtailment Rider Program, although agricultural accounts clearly view it as Midwest Energy’s program. By serving as an integral partner, while keeping Midwest Energy at the forefront, Enel X enables Midwest Energy to retain ownership of the program and strengthen relationships with these key customers. However, Midwest Energy definitely sees Enel X as vital to the program and its phenomenal success. “Enel X has a strong understanding of the utility business and the value of demand response as a cost-effective alternative to supply-side options,” he says. “They’ve been very good to work with— responsive, smart, and customer-focused.”

The Results

In addition to driving increased satisfaction amongst farmers, the response from within Midwest Energy itself has been extremely positive. The popularity of the program, its quick escalation from pilot to full-scale program, and the ease and reliability of dispatch are just some of the reasons why Midwest Energy leaders are pleased with the program. “I know of no one else offering anything similar in demand response that is as cost-effective and doable as the Enel X program,” says Volker. “It may allow us to delay an expensive investment in an overloaded substation. And it’s cost-effective relative to other supply alternatives. Enel X demand response is certainly working for us.”

Automatic curtailment ensures that Midwest Energy receives the supply it needs—quickly and easily. During each dispatch, Midwest Energy has achieved or exceeded its target curtailment. And since shutdowns are carefully timed and controlled, dispatch never comes as a surprise to farmers, who are kept fully informed of upcoming dispatches via phone and email. “Farmers are pretty pleased with the program,” Volker says. In general, farmers receive payments of approximately $1,000 a year for participating in the program.

The Benefits

Enel X brings a powerful benefit to Midwest Energy—a reliable method of addressing its supply needs by reducing peak demand during hot summer months.

Other benefits Enel X brings to Midwest Energy include:

A Turnkey Solution

Midwest Energy chose to partner with Enel X rather than implement a demand response program using its own resources. The decision to select a turnkey solution and to outsource key stages made real economic sense for the small cooperative. “Staffing is expensive and implementation takes time,” says Volker. “In all honesty, I don’t see how you could do a program like this in-house. Even a turnkey program still requires hands-on management to ensure success. So we have very deep involvement with the program. But we rely on Enel X as our partner, and they’ve delivered.”

Complete Program Ownership

Enel X works with utilities to determine the level of visibility its team will have in the customer-facing implementation and installation process. For Midwest Energy, it was important that key agricultural accounts see the program as its program. Enel X’s ability to support Midwest Energy with technology, expertise, and commitment was vital to the success of the program, from pilot to full-scale implementation.

A Customized Approach

Successful implementation of an agricultural demand response program comes down to a commitment to doing the pump-level integration that makes dispatch happen. “We’ve learned that there is no such thing as a standard installation,” says Volker. Enel X’s ability to work with diverse sites and customers ensures successful dispatch, and customer satisfaction with the program.

Advanced Technology

Enel X’s advanced technology is a key factor in the success of the program. “Enel X’s irrigation-pump load control system is state of the art,” says Volker. And it’s just one element of Enel X’s demand response technology platform, which stretches all the way from the cornfields of Kansas to the Enel X Network Operations Center in Boston. With Enel X's energy intelligence software platform, utility operators can dispatch and restore demand response resources—monitoring load shed results and remotely starting and stopping irrigation pumps—simply by logging into Enel X. In addition, their agricultural customers can access detailed energy usage information through Enel X’s online tools.

Utility Expertise

"Enel X brings an understanding of utilities and energy data—as well as deep demand response experience," says Volker. "We’ll be relying on this expertise as we move ahead and expand our program."

The Future

"Farmers in our service territory have quickly recognized the benefits of the program and are eager to participate," says Volker. "It’s been a success all around, and we’re eager to expand the program." Future plans include incremental increases in the program each season, ultimately growing the program to 20–25 MW.