What can utilities learn from this past summer?
By John McMalcolm
The heat wave that swept across the U.S. this past summer resulted in a dramatic rise in energy consumption levels as residents in affected areas had to use more air-conditioning to keep cool.
In order to prevent power outages, utility companies took a wide range of measures to reduce energy use. While some of them managed to provide uninterrupted power supply through the entire summer, others were not so successful.
Here are several effective tactics that utilities can use to keep energy consumption under control during exceptionally hot summers.
Demand Response Programs
New York City experienced its longest heat wave in over a decade this past summer, and it broke its energy use record.
According to Con Edison, the utility that supplies power to the city, a record-high 13,322 megawatts of electricity were used on July 20, 2013, and the amount could have been several hundred megawatts higher if not for its demand response programs.
There are basically two types of demand response programs, namely, offering lower energy rates at certain times of the day and directly controlling the amounts of electricity customers can use.
Con Edison encourages its customers to sign up for its demand response programs by offering rewards. By doing so, it has their approval to reduce their energy use when the need arises.
Energy Efficiency Advice and Services
Utilities that do not have demand response programs can cut down energy consumption by providing energy efficiency advice and services for their customers.
They can teach their customers how to consume less energy during summer by posting energy-saving tips on their websites, conducting energy-saving seminars or offering free energy checks and advice.
Oklahoma Gas and Electric has a program that provides a wide range of energy efficiency services either free of charge or through rebates, including cooling system service, duct repair, attic insulation and others.
Renewable Energy Incentives
Instead of promoting energy savings, some utility companies are encouraging their customers to produce their own energy with solar panels or geothermal systems.
Arizona Public Service Co. provides incentives to customers who use solar power to generate electricity and heat water.
Customers who have grid-connected solar power systems can even sell their excess energy to the grid. In their endeavor to promote renewable energy, utilities also assist their customers in obtaining federal and state funding and rebates.
Utility customers need to keep track of their energy consumption constantly in order to save energy effectively. They can do so with the help of smart meters, which send energy use data to them and their utility companies.
Pacific Gas and Electrichas installed more than 9.6 million smart meters across Northern California, and it is getting information about its customers' energy use every 15 minutes. It will notify its customers when their energy consumption is approaching a higher-price tier.
Cutting down energy consumption does not only help prevent interruption of power supply; it can also be beneficial to the environment. By following the tips above, utility companies can contribute significantly to a sustainable future.
About the Author: John McMalcolm is a freelance writer who writes on a wide range of subjects, from energy conservation to online reputation management services.
Drax advances biomass strategy with Pinnacle acquisition
The Group’s enlarged supply chain will have access to 4.9 million tonnes of operational capacity from 2022. Of this total, 2.9 million tonnes are available for Drax’s self-supply requirements in 2022, which will rise to 3.4 million tonnes in 2027.
The £424 million acquisition of the Canadian biomass pellet producer supports Drax' ambition to be carbon negative by 2030, using bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and will make a "significant contribution" in the UK cutting emissions by 78% by 2035 (click here).
This summer Drax will undertake maintenance on its CfD(2) biomass unit, including a high-pressure turbine upgrade to reduce maintenance costs and improve thermal efficiency, contributing to lower generation costs for Drax Power Station.
In March, Drax secured Capacity Market agreements for its hydro and pumped storage assets worth around £10 million for delivery October 2024-September 2025.
The limitations on BECCS are not technology but supply, with every gigatonne of CO2 stored per year requiring approximately 30-40 million hectares of BECCS feedstock, according to the Global CCS Institute. Nonetheless, BECCS should be seen as an essential complement to the required, wide-scale deployment of CCS to meet climate change targets, it concludes.