Where does my electricity come from?

We take electricity for granted, confident that every time we flip a switch or push a button, power will flow. But where does your electricity come from, and how does it get delivered to your door?

Where does IMU get its power?

Indianola Municipal Utilities gets its power from MEAN, the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska. MEAN is comprised of 189 communities in 6 Midwest and Rocky Mountain states. IMU joined MEAN in 2008 after its then-wholesale vendor increased rates substantially.
MEAN was selected for both its competitive rates and its status as a collection of municipal organizations with similar needs and philosophy. Being a member of MEAN, IMU has a voice in operations. We are a member of their board, and have a vote on the direction and priorities in the organization. Since joining MEAN, Indianola residents consistently see rates as low or slightly lower than MidAmerican Energy, from whom IMU previously purchased its electrical power.

How does electricity get to Indianola?

While flipping a light switch is pretty straightforward, the path your electricity took to get to that switch is anything but. To bring electricity from where it’s generated to where it’s used requires a complex system of interconnected transmission and distribution lines, substations, transformers, and other equipment. MEAN’s parent website offers a helpful explanation.
“When electricity is generated, it leaves the generation source and travels to a step-up substation. These substations increase the voltage or electric energy pressure, so it can move long distances over transmission lines… It’s similar to water traveling through a garden hose – increasing the pressure (by narrowing the opening) causes the water to travel faster and
giving it the capability of traveling farther.

After traveling along high-voltage transmission lines, electricity is then delivered to local substations where it is stepped down to a lower voltage so it can be used by large industrial users, which require higher voltage power than homes or small businesses to run heavy machinery. From there, electricity is stepped down even more by transformers in neighborhood substations and on electric distribution system line poles so it can be delivered safely to homes and businesses through local distribution electric lines.”

How is my electricity generated?

Electricity produced at a number of MEAN-owned generation locations joins the U.S. Eastern power grid. It is then transmitted through a redundant network of transmission lines owned by producers and electrical operators who work together to manage the electric demands of the region. IMU owns approximately 15.7 miles of transmission lines between Indianola’s west side substation and Bevington, Iowa, and 6 miles between our west and east side substations. We also have other interconnections that provide redundancy and continued reliability in the event of a problem with our main source.
IMU also has the ability to generate 37 MW of electricity to keep Indianola powered, if all our redundancy sources are ever damaged. While not cost-effective as a main source of power, it’s a great standby for emergencies and for times when other grid customers need more demand in peak times and are willing to pay more for it. Typically, this comes into play on the hottest and coldest days, when other sources of electricity are not sufficient for spikes in demand.

How “green” is my electricity?

MEAN has a diverse portfolio of power generation sources it either owns or co-owns with partners throughout the region. They have made tremendous strides in moving towards the MEAN board of directors’ Vision 2050, a cost-effective plan to transition to 100% carbon-neutral sources of electricity by 2050. As previously mentioned, IMU has a seat on that board and has been a vocal supporter of finding sustainable, affordable solutions for meeting power demand now and in the future. Already, MEAN’s power sources are close to a 50/50 split between renewable and traditional (fossil) sources of energy.