Western North Dakota needs more power

Oct 24, 2012

A new study shows sharply increased electricity demand in western North Dakota’s Oil Patch.

As Prairie Public’s Dave Thompson reports, that demand is driven by continued oil development – and a growing population.

The study is called “The Williston Basin Oil and Gas Related Electrical Load Growth Forecast.” Governor Dalrymple says the study was done by KLJ Engineering at the behest of the state Industrial Commission.

“The study shows a need for nearly three times as much power in the next 20 years in the oil and gas producing region than we utilize today," said Dalrymple. That would be an increase of 2000 megawatts of additional electric power. And that demand will be driven by a projected 52 percent population increase in the 22 oil producing counties, as well as the development of oil wells.

“So, having this kind of data will not only assist with planning to meet the electrical need, but will also assist us as we plan for other infrastructure needs,” said Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, a member of the Industrial Commission.

Both Basin Electric Power Cooperative and Montana-Dakota Utilities say they’re ready to meet those increased power needs.

“Working with our members , working with our forecast people and our planning people, we believe we have our arms around this load growth in this area,” said Basin CEO Andrew Serri.

“This study, to use Andy’s phrase, really does validate what we’re seeing – not only for actual load growth, but also coincident with what we’re forecasting for next year and the year beyond,” said MDU President David Goodin.

Basin and MDU say it will mean more transmission lines, more substations, more peaking plants – and the potential for more baseload generation.

“We know we’re going to have to build generation in the future, said Serri. "And if you’re next question is – what type of generation will that be? We’ll say, ‘stay tuned for that.’ We’re studying that as we speak.”