MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — After a brief reprieve from the summer heat, the mercury is rising again.

Our highs Wednesday will reach the 90s. That’s a 15 to 20-degree difference from so far this week.

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That means many of us will reach to turn on the AC Wednesday. When we all did that during our heat wave in early June, the entire regional power grid reached its maximum generation point.

We’ve had the hottest start to June on record. With more AC cranking days on the way, we wondered how our power grid is handling the heat.

“We have to keep reliability, affordability and clean, all three in nice balance of each other,” said Aditya Ranade, deputy commissioner for energy resources at the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

In Minnesota, 55% of our state’s electrical power is carbon-free — 29% from renewables like solar or wind and 26% from nuclear power.

We’re also part of the MISO energy grid, which we trade with regularly to keep prices down.

But if there’s extreme weather, like a heat wave, we rely on energy sharing within the grid to power our homes.

“During a potential shortage or during a maximum generation event reliability becomes the first priority and utilities are required to draw power from wherever its available,” said Ranade. “So during a short period maybe a day, maybe two hours in that day, they will draw power from other parts of Miso that are not – whose energy mix is not as green as Minnesota.”

Ranade says Minnesota does relatively well when it comes to energy efficiency.

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“We’re much better than our neighbors,” said Ranade. “Our carbon-free share has gone from 29% to 55% over the last 15 years.”

And he says we’re making progress.

“Our electrical grid is significantly cleaner than it used to be,” said Ranade. “Likely we would get to 70% carbon-free by 2034 even without further registration just based on utilities current plants.”

But we still “waste” more than half of the energy we consume. The Minnesota commerce department says of all the energy consumed in Minnesota, more than 57% went unused as waste heat, mainly through vehicle engines and heat vented off power plants.

“The cheapest and cleanest form of energy is the one that you don’t use,” said Ranade.

Home cooling can account for about half of a summertime electric bill. Here are some energy use tips:

  • Adjusting thermostat
  • Drawing blinds during the day
  • Use ceiling fans to circulate heat
  • Change your AC filter
  • Use your dishwasher/washer/dryer during off peak hours – helps keep house cooler and reduces strain on local grid

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  • Installing a programmable thermostat that raises the setting when the house is empty, and lowers it to a comfortable level when everyone comes home
  • Using ceiling fans to help circulate cool air through the home
  • Opening interior doors to improve the circulation of cool air inside
  • Using a whole-house or attic fan to draw in cool nighttime air and push out hot air during the day
  • Changing air conditioning filters
  • Closing drapes and blinds during the heat of the day

Customers can also help reduce their overall bills by:

  • Turning off unnecessary lighting and replacing incandescent bulbs with LEDs, which use 75 to 80 percent less energy than traditional bulbs and last 15 percent longer
  • Running washing machines, dishwashers and clothes dryers with full loads after the heat of the day, which helps keep the house cooler and reduces strain on the local grid
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Xcel Energy has more tips for saving money and energy at its website. Xcel Energy also offers incentives and rebates that customers can use to make homes and businesses more efficient. Information on these programs can be found by clicking here.

Erin Hassanzadeh